The Detroit Red Wings don’t always make things easy for their prospects getting ice time with the big club.
Just ask Anthony Mantha.
While this philosophy can be questioned by just about everyone, there is wisdom in the idea of not rushing prospects. Allowing them to have more ice time and high pressure experiences where the opportunities present themselves is certainly valuable.
But the “over-ripen” era should be over. Players like Tomas Tatar, who should have been up with the Red Wings during their 2013 playoff run, could have made a difference. His knack for scoring could have maybe put the Blackhawks away in a series where the Red Wings played Cory Emmerton instead. Then coach Mike Babcock was playing a suffocating defense to try and hamper the Chicago offense, but in a couple games decided by a goal, one can only wonder if Tatar might have found the net and changed the trajectory at the beginning of Ken Holland’s missteps.
Regardless, this season alone has shown that the younger players have to work more to not only slide into the lineup, but to stay there with real minutes. Givani Smith, Michael Rasmussen, Taro Hirose, and Evgeny Svechnikov all speak to this. Dennis Cholowski can’t escape Grand Rapids and he’s a point-per-game player right now while doing exactly what they wanted on the power play–being elite.
So are there are any prospects in the pipeline who could make the team out of camp next year and stay?
Red Wings got a steal with Joe Veleno
When Veleno’s name was called during the 2018, there was relief on one side and exuberance on another.
Veleno was slotted to be picked anywhere from tenth to twentieth but for him to fall to Detroit was considered a gift.
Granted exceptional status in 2015, Veleno has been playing in higher leagues since he was 15 years old. While his numbers haven’t always been exceptional, Veleno plays the game that the Red Wings crave: a relentless 200-foot game while exhibiting a high end hockey IQ.
In other words, when the game is on the line, he’s a guy you want out on the ice because he’ll be in the right place at the right time.
At every stop, it has taken him time to acclimate. Taking a look back to his transition to Grand Rapids last season, The Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James had this write up when the hockey
More from Octopus Thrower
world was on pause after Covid shut everything down. Here’s a telling quote from Shawn Horcoff, the Red Wings’ Director of Player Development :
He is starting to separate himself down there, he’s starting to have confidence to move the puck through the neutral zone, drive wide on D. That’s going to be an asset for him as he gains more strength and maturity.”
That strength and maturity has happened with each new level. It did again this season in the SHL, where Veleno was loaned to Malmo and is currently third in goals with ten.
Being known for his responsible defensive play only bolsters Veleno’s chances of making the team next season if he has a really good camp. With many veteran contracts expiring, as well as an outside chance that Frans Nielsen’s could be bought out, it makes a compelling case for a younger player like Veleno to slide into that third or fourth line center role that could shelter his minutes. It would also give him valuable time on the ice to chip in offensively. When Malmo’s season concludes, Veleno could get a cup of coffee with the Red Wings and start momentum towards next season.
As seen in all of his stops, Veleno’s offensive game has picked up once he’s become more comfortable with his new role. All that remains to be seen is if he’ll get the time with Detroit next season or it’ll be a shuffle show to Grand Rapids and back.