|Jordan Weal during his 1-on-1 race in the Sherwood Puck Control Relay Sunday in the 2017 AHL All-Star Skills Competition at the PPL Center.|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
If you asked him, he'd tell you that he's just grinding away in the minors. He's waiting for that - to this point seemingly elusive - extended look in the National Hockey League (NHL).
In the meantime, he's making the best of his situation in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season.
Jordan Weal was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Month for the month of January Thursday afternoon, tallying 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 11 games including points in eight straight games to end the month.
"He's been pretty consistent all year," Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said of Weal's play this season. "Second leading scorer in the league, so I don't think we can say anything about being more consistent. A guy [who], from a production standpoint, has been there all year for us," Gordon added.
On the season, Weal's 45 points (15 goals, 30 assists) in 40 games leads the Phantoms in scoring and ranks 2nd in the entire AHL which begs the ultimate question. Why is a guy who has been a point per-game player his last two and a half seasons in the league (and a 2015 Calder Cup playoffs MVP) still awaiting his first real feeling of being a regular, everyday NHL player?
Ontario Reign head coach Mike Stothers, captain Vincent LoVerde know Weal's attitude/determination to make it to the NHL
He's a dynamic player. He's a game breaker at this level. He can change the outcome of a game in one shift. He's hard to contain.
That's just some of what Weal's former coach during his last AHL stint in Manchester said about the current Phantoms' forward.
"He's built a little bit lower to the ground, but I'm not going to say he's short," Stothers said a bit jokingly of Weal. "He uses it to his advantage. I'm actually surprised he's not first in the league in scoring."
As for why Weal wasn't able to stick in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings last year - appearing in just 10 games before being included in a mid-season trade to the Philadelphia Flyers organization, and another four contests with the black and orange last spring - Stothers wasn't sure and was unable to fathom why.
"It's hard to put a finger on why," Stothers said of why Weal hasn't been able to get full-time NHL work. "You might think it's because he's built lower to ground - maybe that's a factor - but the game is changing now. It doesn't really matter about size."
"I don't think he's, he's not lightning fast, but he's quick," Stothers said of Weal's skating ability. "His edge control to be able to elude traffic and containment is amazing so you know what, I don't know," he added.
Defenseman Vincent LoVerde - Weal's roommate during their time together in Manchester in their Calder Cup-winning 2014-15 season - said besides being a great roommate, Weal was all hockey all the time.
"He really likes hockey. Loves watching it, loves playing it, loves everything about it which is good," LoVerde said of Weal. "I'm glad to see he's having a great season so far," he added of Weal being second in the league in scoring.
"I'm not surprised at all. He's an amazing player. You know what you're getting with Jordan every night. He works hard every single day, every single practice. He competes, he wants to win and he's a great player to have on your team."
He's had a couple of cups of coffee but for whatever reason, Weal hasn't been able to make it stick in the NHL - now in his fourth full season at the professional level. He's a pretty determined individual, so it might be just a matter of time before he's up there and up there on a regular basis.
"That's why you kind of pull for a kid like that. He wants it so bad," Stothers said."You always pull for those guys and you never give up on them. I could be one of his biggest fans. He played so well for us in Manchester, it was unbelievable. You'd love to see him get a chance and really see what he can do up top."