GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — During the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 1-0 win against the Manitoba Moose on Friday at Van Andel Arena, Joe Veleno and Moritz Seider received a short video tribute for their time spent at the 2020 World Junior Championships.
Both Griffins then were shown side by side on the bench, as the crowd applauded their performances. Meanwhile, leave it to Evgeny Svechnikov to lighten the mood with a little video bomb.
Hey Geno pic.twitter.com/yiTWmcOydy
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) January 11, 2020
There’s no doubt Svechnikov and the rest of his Griffins teammates are happy to have Veleno and Seider back, as the Griffins have to make a second-half push if they want to extend their playoff streak to eight consecutive seasons.
Coach Ben Simon said he hopes this World Juniors experience will help the pair improve.
“We were really happy for Joe winning a gold medal,” Simon told Wings Nation. “It’s a great experience for him to go through and be a part of a successful team and what it takes to be a part of a winning team, so that’s huge for him. And Mo, in his own right, had a great tournament playing for Germany and being in a big game, they go through the relegation process, and Germany doesn’t get relegated, so to be part of that, that’s a big win for that country.
“To represent your country through the game of hockey, through sport I think is a tremendous honor, and those guys should be proud of themselves.”
Veleno finished the tournament with one goal and five assists in seven games, while Seider had six assists in seven games.
Germany missed the quarterfinal and had to go through the relegation process, but Seider performed exceptionally for his team, averaging 25:20 minutes per game and was only on the ice for three even-strength goals against of the 14 Germany allowed.
Seider finished with an average of 25:20 of ice time per game. He was on the ice for only three even-strength goals against, including an ENG vs. Kazakhstan. He had six assists, three of which came in GER's prelim win vs. CZE and he finished with 21 shots on goal.
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 5, 2020
When informed of the impressive goals against stat, Simon didn’t bat an eye.
“That doesn’t surprise me, he’s a smart guy,” he said of Seider. “He plays hard. Kudos to him, hopefully, he takes that confidence. I hope both of those guys take what they learned from that tournament, they apply what they learned in the first half, apply that (success at the tournament) and take that success and confidence and bring it back here and push for the second half.”
Seider said management in Detroit talked to him about playing a strong defensive game in the tournament.
“That was the plan going into the tournament,” he said. “I was talking to Detroit, and they clearly said you have to be very solid defensively, and I think I did that very well. It was nice getting a lot of minutes and only a few goals against.”
After beating the United States 6-4 in the opener, Canada got shutout by Russia 6-0, and Veleno was suspended for a headbutt on Russia’s Daniil Misyul. The Canadians beat Germany 4-1 without Veleno and rattled off four more wins — outscoring their opponents 22-6 — en route to the gold medal.
“It’s a really good experience for myself,” Veleno said. “For our team especially, I think we battled through a lot of adversity throughout the tournament. For us to play for a gold medal meant a lot, and we had a good crowd down there, so it was really fun to play there. Winning a gold medal, for sure, there’s no better feeling — something you dream of as a kid.”
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 6, 2020
Veleno had the privilege of playing with Alexis Lafrenière on his wing during the tournament, and everybody certainly noticed the possible Red Wings connection.
Detroit, currently sitting in last place, has the best odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick, which could net them Lafrenière. Of course, they also have the best odds of sliding to fourth overall, in which case Lafrenière definitely would not be available.
Veleno said the two first met at the 2017 QMJHL draft, where Lafrenière was selected first overall by the Rimouski Oceanic. Veleno congratulated Lafrenière on being the first overall pick, and the pair later played together at the 2018 U18 World Championship. Being two of just a few French-Canadian players, the two developed a quick friendship that continues to blossom.
“He’s an unbelievable player, but I think he’s an even better person,” Veleno said of Lafrenière. “He’s really humble, he’s a funny character. He likes to be relaxed in the locker room and off the ice. I think guys will like him a lot. I think he can turn things around.
“He’s a game-changer. He’s a really talented player who has a lot of skill. He can take control of the game whenever he wants. It was fun to play with him and see him on the ice.”
Veleno said he and Lafrenière discussed the possibility of Detroit selecting him and was excited for a possible reunion but also noted the winger would be happy no matter where he goes.
After falling to the United States in its opening game, Germany beat the Czech Republic 4-3 and put themselves in contention to advance to the quarterfinal. However, subsequent losses to Canada and Russia ended Germany’s hopes of playing for a medal, as they finished one point behind the Czech Republic for the last spot in the quarterfinal.
Seider’s tournament experience did not end with a medal, but the 18-year-old enjoyed every minute of the event.
“For sure, I had fun in Europe, but it’s great to be back with the team now,” he said. “Playing those games against the big countries, but it was also nice just seeing all of the guys again. I know the guys now for forever. We had a really good team. A lot of young guys with a really bright future.”
One of those players Seider was referring to, Tim Stützle, is another player the Red Wings could be targeting at the draft in June. Should the Red Wings fall to No. 4 overall, they wouldn’t get a shot at Lafrenière, but Stützle could be there.
The 17-year-old has five goals and 18 assists in 25 games with Adler Mannheim in the German professional league DEL. Putting up nearly a point per game in a professional league as a 17-year-old is quite impressive, and he plays both center and wing.
Seider said he didn’t discuss with Stützle the possibility of being selected by the Red Wings, but he had nothing but good things to say about his German teammate.
“He’s an outstanding player, and he will figure out his role in the next couple of years,” Seider said. “I wish him all the best. He’s a hell of a player, and I think he showed that in the tournament.”
Rasmussen returns to lineup
Michael Rasmussen suited up for the Griffins for the first time since Nov. 12 after dealing with an upper-body injury. The 20-year-old had nine points in 10 games with Grand Rapids before being sidelined.
For being out of the lineup for nearly two months, Rasmussen looked pretty good. He was aggressive, using his big frame to knock opposing players off the puck and keeping possession.
He also had a couple of scoring chances, finishing with two shots.
I don’t think anyone expected him to come back and light up the scoreboard, but it was a good first step as he attempts to reestablish himself within the Red Wings organization.
“It’s tough being out that long,” Rasmussen said. “You don’t want to be out that long at all. I’m doing good, health-wise and getting better. It’s awesome to be back in the room with the guys who have been supporting me.
“I worked really hard to get to where I’m at.”
Simon also had tempered expectations for the 2017 first-round pick but was pleased with his performance.
“His timing is probably a little bit off,” Simon said. “I think, for all intents and purposes, his skating was there (Friday night). His hockey sense was there, he was holding onto pucks in the O-zone and was pretty responsible defensively in the D-zone.”