In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how those players would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.
The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.
Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.
Team: Drummondville Voltigeurs
Veleno comes with lofty expectations dating back to June 2015. That's when he was given exceptional status, permitting him to play major junior hockey at 15 years old, a feat granted to only Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Sean Day.
To Veleno's credit, while he hasn't quite answered all the hype, he's met a lot of it, turning himself into one of the top center prospects in this year's draft.
All of his strengths thoroughly showed after a midseason trade from rebuilding Saint John to contending Drummondville, for which he scored 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) in 33 regular-season games before tacking on five goals and six assists in 10 playoff contests. In total during 2017-18, the multifaceted 18-year-old put up 22 goals and 79 points in 64 regular-season games between Saint John and Drummondville of the QMJHL.
Veleno is a speedy skater, smooth puck-handler and complete playmaker. He may not flat-out blow you away, but he's impressive in just about every area, all situations.
Fit with Flyers
Given general manager Ron Hextall's propensity to build down the middle by drafting versatile centers early, it would not be surprising to see the Flyers eye Veleno if he's within range at No. 14.
In the past two drafts, the Flyers drafted centers with their first two picks — Nolan Patrick (2017 — No. 3 overall), Frost (2017 — No. 27 overall), German Rubtsov (2016 — No. 22 overall) and Pascal Laberge (2016 — No. 36 overall). They also snagged Travis Konecny, who was considered a center/winger, with their second selection in 2015.
Considered advanced and regarded for his pro-like approach and work ethic, Veleno would slide nicely into the Flyers' strong prospect pool while giving Hextall further organizational depth at a position he covets.
It looks like Veleno could go anywhere between picks Nos. 8-14, giving the Flyers a chance. There would be little reason to dislike the notion of Hextall drafting Veleno at No. 14 or with a possible trade to move up.