No Longer in the Background, Jordan Weal Reminding Flyers He's in the Mix

Jordan Weal's voice was raspy and hoarse.

Once he finished speaking, the rookie made his way to the refrigerator in the Flyers' dressing room and grabbed a bottle of water.

He said he was just getting over a cold.

That was no problem, though, because his game has spoken loud and clear.

Weal made arguably his biggest boom yet on Tuesday night, scoring a game-tying goal in the third period and the only successful shootout shot of a 3-2 win over the Senators at the Wells Fargo Center (see game story).

"He's been a good addition to our team," Wayne Simmonds said. "He's played well ever since he's been up."

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With the way things have gone, it's hard to imagine him ever going back down.

Since being summoned by the Flyers on Feb. 10, Weal has put his opportunity in a chokehold and doesn't seem to be letting go. The small but swift forward has scored five goals in his last 11 games. Through 18 total games this season, Weal has eight points (six goals, two assists) and a plus-4 rating.

A roster spot cemented for 2017-18?

"Not at all," Weal, who turns 25 on April 15, said. "This is one of the best leagues in the world, nothing is given to you here. You've got to keep working all the time, from year to year. Your position's never guaranteed, you've just got to keep moving forward and keep working hard."

It took only a strong training camp and preseason, 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 43 games at AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley and an injury to Travis Konecny to get his chance.

But he's here and delivered further validation Tuesday (see 10 observations).

As the Flyers trailed, 2-1, with a little over six minutes remaining in regulation, Weal went directly for Craig Anderson as the Ottawa goalie played a puck out of the crease. Catching the netminder by surprise, Weal picked off his pass and smoothly went around the diving Anderson to tie the game.

"Goalie was out of the net and I was able to put it away," Weal said. "Things like that happen because we pressured him hard and we took away their options."

Without that play, the Flyers likely take another destructive loss and fall eight points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot with six games to play.

Weal provided the alternative of consecutive wins for the first time since Feb. 28-March 2 when he scored five-hole on Anderson in the shootout.

Of the six players to shoot between the Flyers and Senators, Weal went first and nobody else found the back of the net. He's 2 for 2 in shootout attempts this season after going just 0 for 1 with the Phantoms. Weal said this one didn't go exactly as planned, but a quick study of video on the bench looking at a goalie's tendencies can help.

"You don't complicate it too much," Weal said. "You just see if the goalie likes to stay out, backs in, if he does anything crazy. After that, you just have to stick to your move and do it to the best of your ability."

Weal's energy and effort have struck Steve Mason.

So much so that …

"He kind of reminds me of Marty St. Louis," Mason said. "Tiny, short on the puck, fast, move, move, move. Good hands, just tenacious on the puck -- he's been impressive."

That's quite the compliment.

"Martin St. Louis is a borderline Hall of Famer. Obviously, I think Weal is unbelievable with the puck, but I think he's got a little bit of a ways to go there," Simmonds said politely and smiling. "He's a bulldog out there. He's extremely strong on the puck and not many guys can take it off him."

In some ways, Weal was an afterthought when the Flyers acquired him in a January 2016 trade with the Kings. The deal was most significant in that general manager Ron Hextall was able to move well-paid veteran Vinny Lecavalier and defenseman Luke Schenn. The Flyers accomplished that, as well as gaining a 2016 third-round draft pick.

They also got Weal.

"He has been a top American League player and he's trying to prove himself as an NHL player," Hextall said on the day of the trade. "He's gonna have to answer that question.

"He's got to establish himself as an NHL player. He needs to come in and show us what he can do."

He's underway.

"From training camp to going down to Lehigh Valley and doing a heck of a job from Day 1 all the way through there," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "Then coming here and not changing his game. He didn't come here and change the way he plays. He just continued to play confidently here.

"He's earned everything he has got and he continues to do that on a daily basis -- and no doubt he will continue doing that."

Last season, throughout an abundance of healthy scratches, Weal was frequently the first player on the ice before practice started. He would take some extra work by himself.

"It's where you fine-tune your game, especially throughout the year," he said. "I really try to find one thing every day, whether it's knocking down pucks or receiving pucks on your backhand and taking it from backhand to forehand and shooting. Or picking off passes or protecting the puck, you've just got to find one thing, and if you can get better at that every day, by the end of the year and come playoff time, you're going to be at your best."

This season, when Weal reported to Lehigh Valley, he felt good.

He was on the ice.

"I was in Allentown and playing every night and comfortable," he said. "My mojo was going, I guess you could say. Coming up here, it just felt like I could get right in the mix."

In the mix and no longer sitting.

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