Dear Red Wings: Veleno, Rasmussen showing promise down the middle

Young centers looking solid for Red Wings as season nears finish

Detroit Red Wings center Joe Veleno (90) plays against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

We love Joe Veleno, and now we feel like jerks for mispronouncing his name for a couple years. It’s Vel-lenno, as in Jay LENO. Not “lay-no.”

Veleno looks strong

I think the main attribute that sticks out through his first three NHL games is his strength. Veleno is a strong 21-year-old. He said himself that he felt to be in good physical shape, and it shows. He’s shoving down seasoned pros in the corners, forcing his way around the ice as if he’s been playing in this league longer than a week, and throwing hits that you might not expect from someone just joining us from the Swedish league.

Then, it’s his ability to rag the puck. He has performed a couple takeaway plays that had me thinking of Pavel Datsyuk a little bit. I just love that tenacity on the puck.

Some stats through three games for Veleno:

  • Average time on ice: 14:11
  • Faceoff win percentage: 45.5% (10 of 22)
  • Blocks: 3
  • Hits: 6
  • Takeaways: 1 -- although doesn’t it feel he should be credited with more?

Right now he’s listed as the 3rd-line center. Personally, I’d like to see him play a bit more minutes with Filip Zadina on his wing. If it weren’t for the surging play of Michael Rasmussen at center on the 1st line, I’d say we should love to see Veleno up there right now filling in for Dylan Larkin. But Rasmussen is earning that ice time.

Suddenly, with Veleno and Rasmussen getting their chances, the Red Wings’ future looks pretty solid down the middle. I think Valtteri Filppula is enjoying his time on the wing, too. He doesn’t look as gassed out there. I think Fil is a bit too gray to be playing down the middle for the Wings right now. I assume he might agree.

This is something to look forward to next season, no doubt. But right now, I repeat, Veleno is the reason to be watching the Red Wings as the season winds down. Enjoy his shifts -- he’s even seeing some time at the point on the power play.

Detroit Red Wings' Michael Rasmussen (27) drives between Carolina Hurricanes' Cedric Paquette (18) and Jake Bean (24) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, April 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Red Wings messing up Tampa’s finish

I would fully expect a bounce-back game from the Lightning on Sunday after they were held without a goal against the Red Wings. Remember when the Red Wings -- yes, think way back now -- used to lose silly games down the stretch to lesser teams? Now they’re on the other end of it. Boy, the times have changed. Detroit is the annoying, defensive-minded “bad” team that is pesky enough to grind out a meaningless win right now. Reminds me of the early 2000s Coyotes or something.

With four games remaining, the Lightning still have a shot at first place in the Central. It’s a bit of a long shot with a determined Carolina Hurricanes team sitting 4 points ahead of them, but I wouldn’t count out Jon Cooper’s squad.

There is a lot of incentive for them to do it, too: Would you rather face the Florida Panthers or the Nashville Predators in the 1st round? I think that’s a simple decision. Although, Nashville seems to be playing some of their strongest hockey of the season -- 6-3-1 in past 10 games.

Another loss to the lowly Wings would be less than ideal for their confidence heading into the post season.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are scheduled to begin Tuesday, May 11.

IYMI: NHL reaches 7-year deal with Turner

It’s the end of an era for the NHL and NBC. I know a lot of hockey fans never really warmed up to the NBC coverage over the past decade, but I enjoyed having them on WDIV and working as an affiliate. There were some very memorable moments, not the least of which were the Winter Classics.

NBC reportedly had no interest in giving the NHL the money it wanted to extend the relationship, even if the network would be just the B package behind ESPN. And so the NHL and Turner Sports on Tuesday formally announced a seven-year agreement that begins next season and will put three Stanley Cup Finals on the TNT cable network.

“From our standpoint, we looked at the strength of the Turner Sports portfolio, which is outstanding,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “They put a fun and innovative factor into all of what they do, and we’re excited to have that same treatment for our sports, and for our fans.”

Turner and corporate owner WarnerMedia surprised many with the acquisition. Longtime NHL partner NBC and Fox were seen as the favorites to get the second package after the league reached an agreement with ESPN last month.

NBC’s run of covering the league since 2005 ends after after this season’s playoffs. It’s the final season of the 10-year contract.

The deal includes up to 72 regular-season games per season, half of the first- and second-round playoff games on TNT and TBS as well as a conference final series. One of the regular-season games will be the NHL Winter Classic, which is played on New Year’s Day.

There are also live streaming and digital rights across WarnerMedia properties, including HBO Max and Bleacher Report. Zucker said there is the possibility that live games could be streamed only on HBO Max, but that isn’t likely until the 2022-23 season at the earliest.

📅 Schedule:

Game recap: Red Wings outlast Lightning for 1-0 victory in shootout

Injuries list

Dear Red Wings Discussion Board

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Red Wings draft positions

Here are the updated draft positions for the next two seasons with the additions from the trade deadline moves.

2021 draft positions:

Here’s the updated list of Red Wings 2021 and 2022 draft positions:

2022 draft positions

Key dates for the 2020-21 NHL season:

  • May 8 -- Season ends
  • May 11 -- Playoffs begin
  • July 15 -- Last possible day for the playoffs
  • 24 hours after end of playoffs -- Player buyout period begins
  • July 21 -- Expansion draft for Seattle Kraken
  • July 23-24 -- NHL Entry Draft
  • July 28 -- Free agency begins

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.