With Mitchell Stephens injured and out of the lineup, Joe Veleno is going to get an extended stay on the roster – could he become an NHL regular in that stretch?
When Dylan Larkin missed a few games due to personal reasons, Veleno was brought up to help bolster the center depth. Although he was sent back down to Grand Rapids when the captain returned, he had flashes of excellent play his short stint. He has a goal and an assist in six games with Detroit this season.
Veleno is at an awkward stage of his hockey career. He is starting to outgrow the Griffins, but his stats aren’t impressive enough to force his way onto the main roster. So far, he has three goals in seven games with Grand Rapids. That’s not enough to make Jeff Blashill to open up the roster for him.
However, now Veleno has the opportunity to prove that he is ready to be a regular in the NHL. Stephens left Saturday’s matchup against the Montreal Canadiens after suffering a lower body injury and was placed on IR two days later. It is unclear just how long he’ll be out for, but for now, Veleno will be stepping in to fill the gap.
Veleno will almost certainly slot in as the team’s fourth line center, which means that he won’t get a boatload of minutes to work with. It’ll be tough, but if Veleno wants to stay in the lineup even after Stephens’ return, he’ll have to do more with less.
Veleno is very capable of being an NHL player – at this point, it is just about finding consistency. With a bit more time, he’ll probably become very comfortable with Blashill’s scheming; his responsible offensive play and excellent defensive skillset are going to fit in well on this Red Wings team.
Veleno could earn a spot on the roster in the coming weeks, but it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t quite cut it. He’ll have time at the end of the season or after the trade deadline to find his footing as an NHL player.