When he was assigning Joe Veleno to AHL Grand Rapids earlier this month, Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was certain of one thing. A day would be arriving this season when Veleno would be back with the big club.
“There’s going to be a time when Joe plays for us this year,” Blashill said. “I’d bet on that.”
Cash that bet, because Veleno’s time is now.
The Red Wings are recalling Veleno from AHL Grand Rapids. He’s joining the club in Toronto, where they are facing the Maple Leafs tonight.
UPDATE: The Detroit #RedWings today recalled center Joe Veleno from the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 30, 2021
Here’s another wager that’s a sure thing – Veleno isn’t arriving in the NHL to be sitting in the press box.
He could be coming to the Red Wings to fill in for Tyler Bertuzzi on this Canadian road trip. Bertuzzi is unable to accompany the team to the Great White North because he hasn’t been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Veleno might be joining the big club because forward Adam Erne is still feeling the after effects of the shot-blocking clinic he put on late in Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers.
The Red Wings didn’t partake in a morning skate on Saturday, so those answer won’t become clear until game time.
One thing is certain – Joe Veleno is an NHL player. How good of an NHLer will Veleno ultimately be? That’s where the uncertainty still exists.
“We don’t know what Joe’s offensive ceiling is,” Blashill admitted. “I know he can be a really good third-line player. I really believe that.
“Can he be more than that? We’re hoping so. And he’s hoping so. He wants to be able to do that.”
Veleno recognizes the need for him to produce offensively if his desire is to play top-six minutes in the NHL.
“I’ve got to start putting up results more,” admitted Veleno, who scored 13 goals last season, his second as a pro.
Veleno Wants To Be A Shining Star
Veleno, 21, acknowledges that at this stage of his development it was better for him to play a starring role in GR than be a bit player on hockey’s biggest stage.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t start over there but coming down, playing big minutes and playing in all situations, I think it can never hurt someone’s confidence when you’re doing that,” Veleno said. “Every game I’m over 20 minutes a night. I’m getting a lot of ice, I’m playing a lot.”
His stat line is showing three goals in five games this season with the Griffins.
Joe Veleno's first NHL goal.
And it's a beauty. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/89vOUAQjRN
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) May 8, 2021
“For me personally, I think it’s been alright,” Veleno assessed of his start to the season with Grand Rapids. “I guess I put a lot of pressure on myself and expect myself to be better and kind of take ownership and leadership with this team, now that I’m considered an older guy.
“I have high expectations for myself. And I always demand the best for myself and always look to be better. I can never be too satisfied and I’m never too satisfied with the way I play. I think there’s always room for improvements.
Veleno Ready For His Next NHL Chance
Veleno saw duty in a five-game stint with the Red Wings late last season. He scored his first NHL goal. Veleno also certified in his mind what Blashill also is suggesting – that he’s an NHL player.
“I played those five games and I think I handled myself pretty well,” Veleno said. “I think I showed a lot in the NHL. It kind of motivates me every day.
“Confidence-wise, I have that confidence that I can play at the next level. It’s just a matter of staying strong mentally and bringing the right attitude and having that mindset to reach that next level.
“I think everything will work out in its place if I have a good mindset and the right attitude.”
How good can Veleno be in the NHL? We’re about to get another window of opportunity to assess that question.