Keven Veilleux was a second-round pick of thein the 2007 entry draft. After playing four seasons in the , he joined the for the 2009-10 season. Although he wasn’t a top prospect, he got attention for his size (6’5”, 218 pounds) and his willingness to play a physical game while adding a scoring touch.
In his rookie year, though, after he had three points and 12 penalty minutes through nine games, Veilleux suffered a shoulder injury in a November game. He needed surgery and would end up missing the rest of the season.
He came back to training camp for the 2010-11 season healthy and ready to go. But early in the season, he was injured again and missed 14 games throughout the season while he recovered from various ailments. However, he still managed to put up 36 points and 122 penalty minutes.
With last season’s performance in mind, it was easy to believe that Veilleux could have another solid season. He was cut by Pittsburgh early in camp, but came down to Wilkes-Barre ready to work and continue improving his game.
But bad luck struck again during a preseason game with theon Sept. 30. Veilleux was injured when he took a hit during the game and did not return to action. The next night, it was reported that his knee was so swollen that X-rays or an MRI could not be done. Members of the media were suggesting that Veilleux could be out indefinitely, although there was no official word.
Earlier this week, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins blog Highland Park Hockey reported that while Veilleux was at practice, he was wearing a big brace on his knee and not taking part; he also missed Tuesday’s practice.
On Thursday afternoon, WBS Penguins beat writer Jonathan Bombulie of The Citizens Voice in Wilkes-Barre said that Veilleux will need knee surgery and was going to miss six months. This means he won’t be back in the lineup until towards the end of the Pens’ regular season.
With Veilleux’s history in mind, it’s easy to wonder if his future with the Penguins is in serious doubt.
It’s one thing for a player to get injured once and miss the necessary time to recover, then come back just as good as or stronger than he was before the injury. It’s even another thing if the player struggling with injuries is scheduled to become a free agent and he can be cut loose after the season.
But Veilleux is a prospect—a somewhat highly drafted one at that—and the Penguins have invested a lot of time and money in him. He’s been in rookie tournaments and gone to NHL camp, so he does have a shot at making the NHL, whether it’s with the Pens or elsewhere. His size and scoring touch give him a good outlook as a third- or fourth-liner.
However, with another injury and more significant time missed, it will no doubt be hard for Veilleux to bounce back.
Since he’ll be missing several months, he won’t get experience playing in a long regular season in a push to the playoffs. He probably won’t be traveling with the team, so he’ll miss out on the bonding time with his teammates, which in turn will affect any on-ice chemistry he can form with them. His skills will suffer, because he won’t be on the ice at practices to work on them.
At the same time, he is just 22 years old. There is still time for him to turn things around and get healthy. He can still have a productive NHL career, so writing him off now seems a bit unfair. The only way to write off a guy that young is if he has a career-ending injury.
But if Veilleux can’t stay away from the operating room and the training room, the Penguins are going to have no choice but to get rid of him. This becomes even more obvious when you look at the fact that injuries have hit the Pens organization hard in recent years. Pittsburgh cannot bring up another injury-prone player, no matter how much potential he has.
This latest setback is probably going to only hurt Veilleux both as a contributor to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and his chances to have a future in Pittsburgh.
This article also appears on Bottom Line Hockey.