Joe Veleno winning over Blashill, Red Wings with outstanding camp

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Joe Veleno

Detroit – When coach Jeff Blashill first saw forward Joe Veleno this training camp, Blashill admittedly was a bit more reserved than others in the front office.

Veleno was the Red Wings’ second first-round pick, after Filip Zadina. Veleno was picked 30th overall, a big drop for a player projected to go in the teens.

“For whatever reason he fell in the draft,” said Blashill after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I don’t know (why). I know drafting is extraordinarily hard and picking players is real hard, and sometimes that happens.

“I would say I was the most cautious (after seeing Veleno); I wasn’t totally sold right away. As this camp has gone along, I’ve been more sold.”

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Veleno is 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds, and possesses the high-end skating ability that makes him a threat on the ice offensively and defensively.

His offensive game was a highlight during the Prospects Tournament earlier this month, although Blashill was impressed with the skating foremost.

Blashill always looks for a “transferable skill,” and he saw it with Veleno.

“He’s a good transporter of the ice, from one end to the other,” Blashill said. “(But) his edges are excellent. He can create space with his edges and he makes a lot of plays in small areas.

“That can be important in the NHL.”

Veleno was granted “exceptional status” in the Quebec Major Junior League so he could play as a 15-year-old and has enjoyed a fine junior career.

Veleno says falling in the draft will motivate him going forward.

“It would have motivated me regardless; I’m a motivated guy who just wants to prove myself out there,” said Veleno, who was to center Michael Rasmussen and Justin Abdelkader against the Penguins Wednesday in the Wings’ preseason opener. “I just have to focus on staying true to myself and keep working hard and good things will happen.”

Jeff Blashill on Joe Veleno: "He can create space with his edges and he makes a lot of plays in small areas."

Veleno is pleased the way the draft turned out, ultimately, landing with the Wings.

“You want to go early as possible, but in my case everything worked well coming to Detroit,” Veleno said. “It’s a first-class organization in a bit of a rebuilding process. I have a good opportunity to play in the next couple of years. I’m real happy.

“It’s a draft, and anything can happen. At the end of the day, just forget about that and I’m focusing on the Red Wings.”

Veleno is destined to return to Drummondville in the Quebec league, but a continued impressive showing in this camp could accelerate his arrival in the NHL.

“It’s a big step from juniors,” Veleno said. “I’m taking everything as an experience and seeing things on and off the ice, talking to players and coaches. I’m just embracing all of it and learning.”

Major difference

Dennis Cholowski was a guy who needed some heft when the Red Wings drafted the defenseman in the first round in 2016.

Two years later, Cholowski has filled out to a sturdy 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, is noticeably thicker across his shoulders, is strong on his skates, and looks poised and confident on the ice.

Cholowski was in the lineup against Pittsburgh, looking to begin work on landing a roster spot for Opening Night.

“Just putting on a little more size and weight gives you more confidence,” said Cholowski. “I have way more confidence this year and I’m more relaxed, and I’m just going to go out and play and see what happens.

“I thought I played well in the prospects tournament, so if I just keeping do that, and doing it here, I’ll be fine.”

Cholowski was looking forward to playing at Little Caesars Arena, which he did for a few games last year in the preseason.

“Being here and playing on home ice, it’s pretty cool,” Cholowski said.

Ice chips

Blashill said forward Martin Frk (back) feels better, but when exactly Frk could return – Frk expects early next week – is up in the air.

With the competition for jobs in camp, it’s important Frk play some games.

“You have to play,” Blashill said. “We talked about how it’s a highly-competitive camp and if you want to earn a spot on the team you have to be on the ice. Hopefully we’ll get him back out there soon.”

… Forward Christoffer Ehn was in the lineup Wednesday. “He skates well, he has a real good brain and he’s going to be a real good defensive player at worst,” Blashill said. “His challenge is to want more offense.”

…B lashill said he’s “optimistic” both Thomas Vanek and Filip Zadina will be ready to play Thursday against Chicago.

Blackhawks at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena.

TV/radio: FSD-Plus/no radio.

Outlook: The Blackhawks aren’t likely to bring many veterans from their regular NHL lineup, but just like the Red Wings, there are jobs available on the roster. LW Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) and D Jordan Oesterle (Dearborn Heights) provide a local touch.

Twitter: @tkulfan