Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall has resisted the temptation to bring up any of his prized prospects who are playing for the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He prefers that they get experience playing in meaningful games for the Phantoms, who are expected to make the playoffs.
The one exception, though, is Jordan Weal.
Called up from the Phantoms on Feb. 10, the 24-year-old rookie has shown that his days in the minor leagues are likely over. Since joining the Flyers, he has combined his speed and strong stick-handling skills to tally six goals and two assists — and entered the roster picture for next year — in 18 games.
“I am trying to [gain more confidence every game],” Weal said. “I’m just watching film every day, seeing what I can continue to do better, trying to work as hard as I can and putting my best foot forward.”
In Tuesday’s come-from-behind 3-2 shootout victory over the Senators that kept the Flyers’ faint playoff hopes alive, Weal tied the game late in regulation and added the only goal in the shootout.
On his third period goal, he intercepted a breakout pass from Senators goalie Craig Anderson by knocking the puck out of the air, controlling it and then scoring the equalizer. It was his second straight game with a goal and third in the last five games.
“I remember him shortly after he got here,” fellow rookie Travis Konecny said. “He said, ‘It’s gonna happen, I can feel it. Then it’s gonna open the floodgates.’ Sure enough, he’s been hot ever since.”
Playing on the second line with veterans Wayne Simmonds and Valtteri Filppula, the former 2010 third-round pick is also seeing time on the second power play unit and getting shifts in overtime.
“He’s earned everything he has got and he continues to do that on a daily basis,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s brought energy in his own way and he’s been a good two-way player. He’s scored some big goals for us. He’s a reliable player that generates and creates offensively.”
Weal was with the Flyers last year, but if you don’t remember him it’s understandable.
After being acquired last January in the trade that sent Luke Schenn and Vinny Lecavalier to the Kings, he played in only four games. Weal began this year with the Phantoms and was second in the AHL in scoring when the Flyers promoted him.
“I think from the start, from the first practice I had [with the Flyers], it just felt a little differently than it did last year,” Weal said. “I was in Allentown playing every night and comfortable. Coming up here, I just felt like I could get right in the mix.”
And it looks like he is going to remain in the mix.