At 26 years old, Jordan Weal could provide some much-needed speed and playmaking for the Philadelphia Flyers third line this upcoming season.
The Philadelphia Flyers went into the offseason knowing they needed to improve the team after getting bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins, with their biggest need was arguably a third line centerman.
Flyers GM Ron Hextall wanted to fill this need in free agency, but couldn’t get the players he wanted due to them wanting long-term contracts. With no names currently on the market worth signing, Hextall must opt for an in-house candidate to fill the position. That candidate should be Jordan Weal.
Hextall has already floated out the idea of Weal playing 3C several times this offseason. That is indicative that the Flyers will more than likely give Weal a shot to earn the spot come training camp.
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Weal has plenty of experience playing the center position. Throughout his entire WHL and AHL career, he played the centerman spot and excelled there too. In his last stint in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the 2015-16 season, he posted 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 43 games with the team. That’s over a point-per-game pace, which even for minor league hockey is impressive.
Jordan’s stats in the NHL this past year and last aren’t to be overlooked, either. Although he played wing, Weal posted 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 69 games for the Flyers last season and 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 23 games the year prior. His assist per game ratio last season (0.19) was higher than the likes of Conor Sheary (0.15) and Jimmy Vesey (0.14). Weal’s playmaking ability is undeniable and something the Flyers bottom-six could use.
Another thing that intrigues me about Weal playing the 3C is his possession numbers. Weal posted a 49.8 percent Corsi-for percentage and a 50.2 percent Fenwick-for percentage. Above 50 percent means the team was controlling play more with him on the ice than off of it. Comparing his numbers to last year’s 3C Valtteri Filppula, Weal is definitely an improvement. Filppula posted a 44.0 Corsi-For percentage and a 44.4 Fenwick-For percentage last year. Not great!
Comparing Weal’s possession numbers to other third line centers around the league might surprise you. Jordan’s possession numbers are better than the likes of the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ Brandon Dubinsky, Washington Capitals‘ Lars Eller, and the Minnesota Wild‘s Charlie Coyle even though Weal played wing, the easier position, the numbers still shouldn’t be overlooked.
Head coach Dave Hakstol also started him more in the defensive zone last season, as well. Weal’s dZs percent went from 38.9 percent in the 2015-16 season to 49.8 in the 2017-2018 season. That could be because Weal played 46 more games last season than the year before, but it’s also possible Hakstol saw improvement and consistency in Weal’s defensive game throughout last season and trusted him more in his own zone. It’s also worth noting that Weal also had more takeaways (19) than giveaways (15) last year.
He can also make plays when given the chance. He scored a beauty of a game-winning goal in the Overtime win against Carolina on February 6th. Weal also doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas on the ice despite his size, as shown on this goal.
Weal playing the center position would also open up a wing spot for a Taylor Leier or one of the young, promising forwards currently in the Flyers farm system. Nicolas Aubé-Kubel and Danick Martel are two of the names in the AHL who could fill that role, while Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe are players in the junior leagues who could also make an impact.
An argument could be made that Weal hasn’t produced enough at the NHL level to fill the 3C role effectively and that he is a little undersized for the position at the NHL level. There are plenty of under 6-foot centermen who excel in the league, our very own Claude Giroux being one of them. Giroux has just an inch and six pounds on Weal, not a big difference. As for the on-ice production, Weal averaged just under 13 minutes TOI last season. Most other third line centermen average about 15 minutes TOI, so the extra ice-time for Weal could allow him to score more for the team.
Jordan Weal has defied almost all of the fans’ expectations of him since he arrived from Los Angeles in January 2016, as many assumed he was nothing but a throw-in from the Kings to take Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn when the trade went down and wouldn’t amount too much. He has now turned into an obvious NHL player in my eyes and can create offense with his speed, playmaking, and effort on the ice. While his defense is still a question mark, there’s no doubt in my mind that the skills he possesses will only help the Philadelphia Flyers’ third line this upcoming season.