Bultman ponders whether Joe Veleno is best-suited to playing on the wing

Red Wings forward Joe Veleno has always been projected to become a solid second or third-line center at the NHL level, but the Detroit Red Wings’ roster is well-stocked in the middle right now. As such, The Athletic’s Max Bultman wonders whether Veleno’s most direct path to the NHL involves taking (to the left or right) wing:

Looking at Detroit’s roster — with Larkin, Pius Suter and Michael Rasmussen all roster locks, and Carter Rowney and Mitchell Stephens among those battling for the fourth-line center job — I’m left wondering if Veleno’s quicker path to the NHL might be on the wing.

So, this weekend, I posed this question to Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill: is there a world in which Veleno is battling for a job on the wing this fall? Or is he exclusively competing down the middle — with the fourth-line center spot the most conspicuously vacant.

“There’s a world where he’s competing on the wing, for sure,” Blashill said. “There’s no doubt that I think if he ends up a much better player than some of the guys that we foresee in those spots, and he’s a better player than those guys and we can find him a spot in the top nine somewhere, then I think it’s a discussion. The discussion for fourth-line center, we’d have to talk what’s best for Joe Veleno at that point, too. Not just necessarily is he a little bit better than another guy; is that the best thing for our organization and the best thing for him in terms of his development? And those are talks that Steve and I will have as we go through exhibition season. And obviously, there’s unforeseen things like injuries. So let’s see where it goes. I think the biggest thing is he just needs to make a statement every time he’s on the ice, that he’s going to make us better.”

Not only was that a clear “yes” on the possibility of Veleno competing at wing — it actually sounded more plausible to me that Veleno makes the team at wing than he does at fourth-line center. Reading not-so-thinly between the lines, there’s a clear implication that Detroit wants Veleno to be a top-nine player if he’s going to make the team, whether that be down the middle or on the wing.

Continued (paywall)

Published by

George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.