Joseph Veleno is truly exceptional.
That was no more evident than when at age 15 he was granted exceptional status that permitted him to play in the QMJHL one year ahead of schedule, paving the way for his first-overall selection by the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2015.
Now four years later, the product of Montreal, Que., will star in the third round of the QMJHL playoffs with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, the next step in the franchise’s search for its first President’s Cup since 2009.
Moving to Drummondville midway through the 2017-18 campaign, this season has marked Veleno’s first full year with his new club, where he evidently needed little time to acclimatize to his new surroundings as the budding star continues to showcase the intriguing skill combination that first drew the attention of talent evaluators, culminating in his first-round selection by the Detroit Red Wings last June.
After finishing 2018-19 with 42 goals and 62 assists, and just seven points shy of the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league’s top scorer in what would have added to a mantel crowded with accolades, missing out on the distinction hasn’t deterred his playoff performance.
In fact, through the first half of the postseason, Veleno has collected 12 points in 10 games and has been among the biggest contributors in helping the Voltigeurs advancing beyond the second round. Semi-final action saw Veleno notch three points in a five-game ousting of the Central Division rival Sherbrooke Phoenix, including a marker in the middle frame of the deciding game that set the table for teammate Maxime Comtois’ game winner in the second overtime session.
Most impressive, however, may be Veleno’s ability to elevate his linemates, a rare skill that truly takes the talents of a top player. With Drummondville, left-wing Gregor MacLeod has been the benefactor of Veleno’s dynamic abilities, as evidenced by his nine-point showing in the playoffs, including two goals in the second round, in addition to his overall play with the Voltigeurs since coming over from the Quebec Remparts in a September trade.
The connection between the two certainly hasn’t been lost on head coach Steve Hartley, either.
“Gregor’s been a great addition for us. He provided something we didn’t have — pure skill and offensively ability,” Hartley told Willy Palov of The Chronicle Herald. “That scoring touch was maybe that one thing we didn’t have. We have a lot of great players but a pure goal scorer like that added a dimension that really helped us. He and Joe (Veleno) had instant chemistry and they’ve been great.”
The third round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postseason continues Tuesday when the Drummondville Voltigeurs will go head-to-head with the Halifax Mooseheads. For complete QMJHL playoff preview coverage, click here.