Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
Joe Veleno became the first player granted exceptional status to enter the QMJHL at 15-years-old in 2015. He put up 40 points in 45 games last year. The Saint John Sea Dogs picked him first overall in the 2015 QMJHL Draft. He helped the Sea Dogs to a QMJHL Championship and an appearance at the 2017 Memorial Cup. This summer, he was outstanding at the Ivan Hlinka tournament with seven points in five games. His performance helped lead Canada to a gold medal.
Returning to Saint John, he put up six goals and 31 points in 31 games before he was traded to Drummondville ahead of the QMJHL Trade Deadline. Now with a stronger team, he’s seen his production increase with 16 goals and 48 points in 33 games down the stretch. Veleno has continued that strong play in the playoffs with four goals and six points in five games as Drummondville has advanced to the second round.
Joe Veleno Scouting Report
Centre — shoots Left
Born January 13th, 2000 — Kirkland, Quebec
Height 6’1″ — Weight 195 lbs [185 cm / 88 kg]
Veleno has tremendous speed and outstanding acceleration. It is his skating skill that truly gave him a leg up on older competition and earned him the exceptional player status. He is silky smooth on his skates. Veleno has the ability to take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also has the agility and edgework to beat a defender in a one-on-one situation off the rush. Veleno is strong on the puck, and works well down low and in the cycle game at the junior level. He likely needs to continue to add strength before being ready for the pro game though.
The offence was a concern earlier in the year as it had not followed the level of previous exceptional forwards. It must be remembered though that Veleno was near a point per game as a middle six player on a stacked team. This year in Saint John, he was merely at a point per game, but the rebuilding Sea Dogs lost a ton of talent and were one of the worst offensive clubs in the QMJHL. He really stepped up his production in Drummondville.
Veleno is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He has great vision, hockey sense, and passing skills. Veleno reads the play well and anticipates where his teammates will be. He uses his speed and agility to open up passing lanes. He also has the ability to put the puck through tight spaces, and make tape-to-tape passes to set up linemates in good scoring areas. Veleno has very good hockey sense, and seems to always make the right play with the puck on his stick. He needs to add muscle to his frame and get more power on his shot to be a consistent goal scorer. He could also be quicker on his release.
Veleno is also gritty and not afraid to get involved in battles on the boards at both ends of the ice. He is good on the backcheck and works hard in his own end. His compete level is very high. He could use a bit of work on his positioning, but this is not a major concern. Overall his defensive game is very strong at the junior level. He uses his body effectively and is willing to block shots. When a turnover is created, he transitions quickly to offense.
Projection and Comparison
Veleno may not project as a top line, franchise centre at the next level. However, he does have the potential to be an outstanding number two centre, who brings a 200-foot game and can play all situations as well as match-up against the other team’s best players. This would still make Veleno very valuable, and a core piece going forward. In terms of a style comparison, he plays the game similarly to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This is not a talent comparison, but one solely based on style. Expect Veleno to spend at least one more season at the junior level.
The following is a compilation of some of the many highlight packages of Veleno that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Main Photo: GATINEAU, CANADA – DECEMBER 1: Joe Veleno #9 of the Saint John Sea Dogs battles for the puck against Gabriel Bilodeau #44 of the Gatineau Olympiques on December 1, 2017 at Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)