The 2018 SBNation NHL Mock Draft started with the Colorado Avalanche sitting in the 16th position. After seeing the picks start to flow in, the management team at Mile High Hockey started to see some of their favorite prospects falling. The team began to work tirelessly to move up into the top-8 to get their hands on the ultra-talented Oliver Wahlstrom, but to no avail. The prices were just too high.
Then, after seeing one other prospect we greatly coveted fall out of the top-10, an opportunity presented itself for us to move the Avalanche up a few spots and grab a prospect of great value.
We swung a trade:
To COL: #13 (via Dallas) + #127
To PHI: #16 + #58 (via Nashville)
So with the 13th pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche are proud to select from the Drummondville Voltigeurs Joseph Veleno
John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, Sean Day, and Joe Veleno. These five players have something very special in common. All five were granted Exceptional Status by the CHL and were drafted into the league at the age of 14, instead of the usual 15. Now, three of these players have gone on to do great things in the NHL, while another has not, so earning Exceptional Status does not guarantee that you’ll continue to be a star from age 15 to 18.
That brings us to Joe Veleno. Drafted by the Saint John Sea Dogs first overall in 2015, Veleno has steadily improved over the course of his three seasons; 0.69 points per game in his rookie year, 0.88 as a 17-year-old in his second year, before putting up 31 points in 31 games as captain for the Sea Dogs in his final season with the club before he got traded at the deadline to Drummondville for a playoff run. 48 points in 33 regular season games and 11 points in 10 playoff games is how he ends his draft eligible season.
Some people think Veleno is a top-10 talent, others believe he should go at the end of the first round. The answer is most likely somewhere in the middle, but I wouldn’t mind betting on a high-skill center with decent size and consistant numbers everywhere he’s gone in the early teens of the draft. These were the reasons we moved up to nab Veleno, as there was a slim chance he would be passed over by teams drafting 13th, 14th, and 15th.
Talking about his game, Veleno is well known for having top-notch vision, speed, and he’s very engaged and active in all zones, knowing where he needs to be at all times (the thing people call hockey sense or hockey IQ). He’s very much in the mold of this new age of players that are stepping into stardom in the NHL. The fact that he’s 6’1” and a center is just gravy. When I did my research for this piece, I found this great paragraph from an October article by Winging it in Motown that I can’t possibly replicate.
If I were to summarize Joe Veleno’s game in one very short description, it’s that it’s extremely fine-tuned. The first tape that I came across featuring him was of him as a 15-year-old, playing against other players that were mostly older than him. Even two years removed from the draft, you could tell he is a catalyst every time he steps on the ice. Very shifty and deceptive, his skating technique has so much grace and finesse to it. He has an explosive first step that lets him go from 0-60 very quickly, and a very powerful stride. He has very strong balance on his skates, making him difficult to knock off of the puck, and his edges are as good as anybody’s in the draft. You combine all of these skating feats together, and he’s a very slippery player to deal with.
I highly recommend reading their whole post (after you finish this one) if you want to get a look at what people were saying before the season started.
The one concern that’s out there is that it’s fairly easy to take Veleno out of the play and make him a non-factor at times in the game at even-strength. He more than makes up for it in his power play production (which we will get to), but hopefully that ferocity is something that can be coached into him.
As we noted above, Veleno has shown consistant growth every year since he was 13-years-old; going from a stead point-producer, to now over a key point per game player on a playoff team.
On the power play especially, Veleno has found himself a niche as an elite playmaker. Veleno is top-5 in the Q in primary assists, secondary assists, and total points at 5-on-4 play. The only player in the league with more assists on the power play than Veleno was Tampa Bay Lightning free agent signee Alex Barre-Boulet. The overager led the Q in overall scoring with an astonishing 116 points in 65 games.
The one concern I would say we had when picking Veleno is his massive secondary assists. If you take them away and only look at primary points (goals, and primary assists), Veleno drops way off the pace of the league, going from 10th in scoring to 23rd. Primary points at even-strength sees Veleno fall even further to 42nd in the league.
Those are all concerning, but when you account for the ice time he was given (low first-line), playing on a lesser team for half the season, and the fact that overagers generally destroy the QMJHL when they’re able to punch down gave us enough motivation to take him at #13.
Not to mention his speed, handling, and vision is just insane:
What the Scouts are Saying
There is so much to like about Joe Veleno. He’s a hard-nosed workhorse that makes the players around him better. The fleet-footed center is unselfish and will primarily look to make a play at top speed; however, when the chance arises to put it in the pot himself, he will capitalize. He sees the ice well and is rarely caught out of position. His defensive game is refined and he actively pursues puck control. Transitioning to offence is natural, smooth, and quick. All-in-all, a well-rounded two-way forward that skates well and can be the catalyst a team needs to turn a game in its favor. If he can find the consistency in refusing to let himself get taken out of plays, especially if he doesn’t start them, he will thrive and exceed expectations. - Curtis Joe, EliteProspects
“It’s hard to look at the numbers (28 points in 30 games) as a gauge for this third-year junior. What was impressive was his showing in both of the CIBC Canada/Russia series games with the QMJHL where he displayed a wide array of assets not dissimilar to his performance in the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup.” (#16 December)
“The weight of the draft and taking on more than he could chew in Saint John stymied the production. The real Joe Veleno is emerging daily in Drummondville.” (#14 February)
Got back on track after being moved to Drummondville. He’s never performed at “exceptional player” levels, but he’s played well at every calling and should end up being a solid pick. (#13 April)
- Sam Cosentino, Sportsnet
“From a defensive standpoint, Veleno is an aggressive forechecker who finishes his checks, and his quick feet, agility and long reach make him an asset on the penalty kill. He consistently lends support below him own circles and will remain close to his defensemen to assist them in breakouts. He has a hard, accurate shot that doesn’t appear to give goalies to much trouble, but his soft hands and hand/eye coordination makes him more dangerous goal-scoring threat from below the hash marks. There are times he gets caught in the moment and tries to do too much, but this could be a byproduct of being a young kid who has played under a massive microscope since the CHL gave him “exceptional status” to play in the league as a 15-year-old. Nonetheless, Veleno is one of the top draft-eligible centers whose size, speed and smarts will land him in the NHL sooner than the majority of his peers.”
- Steve Kournianos - The Draft Analyst
Reason for the pick
We believe that Joe Veleno is the best center in the draft. He came into the QMJHL early and was thought to have superstar potential. While some scouts claimed his development had stalled, he proved them wrong after the trade to Drummondville. After the trade, Veleno proved that he could not only anchor a team, but that he had the ability to produce offense at a star level.
He can do just about anything on the ice. The organization is incredibly high on Tyson Jost and Veleno plays a very similar style of game - except at a higher speed and with a more dynamic offensive touch. Veleno is a more polished version of Jost and is a guy that isn’t far from making an NHL debut.
The depth chart is full down the middle sof the ice, but this is a case of taking the best player viable regardless of position. Looking at our draft board, Veleno was the best player available - and it wasn’t close.
Joe Veleno is going to be 2018’s Mr. “how did he fall out of the top-10” and we are incredibly excited to have him in the organization.