The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot of talented young players, but returning forward Jordan Weal might be one of the most likely to have a breakout year.
At one point during this offseason, it seemed as though forward Jordan Weal might have already played his last game in a Philadelphia Flyers uniform. Weal was scheduled to become a free agent on July 1, and as the days ticked by, the likelihood of that coming to fruition increased further and further. Moreover, reports came out that Weal’s agent had been in talks regarding Weal with the Las Vegas Golden Knights just before Vegas held its expansion draft.
Instead, Weal signed a 2 year, $3.5 million deal to stay with the Flyers on June 29. The team was able to ink a young forward who was garnering interest around the league to a very reasonable deal, a deal that may very well swing drastically in the Flyers’ favor in the near future.
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Acquired by the Flyers in the Vincent Lecavalier/Luke Schenn trade, Jordan Weal spent most of the 2015-16 season hanging out in the press box, since sending him to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms would require him having to pass through waivers. When he got to take the ice regularly for the Phantoms this past year, he shined. Weal scored 47 points in 43 games, instantly proving himself to be one of the most talented players yet to break into the big leagues.
His minor league production shouldn’t have been a surprise though- in his previous two seasons in the AHL, Weal posted 70 and 69 points. But the numbers crunch had always found a way to leave Weal on the outside looking in.
At the end of last season, Weal finally got extended playing time at the NHL and made the most of it. Providing a lethal combination of speed, skill and energy, Weal scored 8 goals and 4 assists in 23 games and gave the Flyers a much needed offensive boost. While his counting stats don’t quite capture his impact, his advanced metrics do a better job. Weal’s Relative Corsi For% at even strength was 6.5, by far the highest of any Flyers forward to play at least 20 games. His Relative Fenwick For% of 6.6 backs it up, showing that Weal’s Corsi wasn’t inflated by blocked shots.
Weal did benefit from being used by Dave Hakstol as a top-6 scoring forward. The vast majority of his shifts began in the offensive zone (61.1%, to be exact), and playing alongside some of the Flyers’ best forwards certainly didn’t hurt. But Weal’s Corsi greatly outstripped that of any other Flyers forward with similar usage, even if that didn’t result in eye-catching point production.
The question of sample size remains a legitimate one- 23 games isn’t enough to draw any definitive conclusions. Still, Weal’s strong performance to finish last year proved he has the talent to stick in this league, and should be a sign of more good things to come. If Weal can maintain Hakstol’s good favor, there’s no reason he can’t have a break out year.
(All stats via Hockey Reference)