Former Boston University netminder Matt O’Connor (# 29) is effectively absent without leave between the pipes for the Binghamton Senators as Lehigh Valley Phantoms All-Star center Jordan Weal (# 40) buries the puck on a wraparound backhander during the Hamilton Street Heroes’ convincing 7-2 triumph at the PPL Center in Allentown last Wednesday night ….. (photo courtesy Nina Weiss / Nina Weiss Photography)
Especially now that Lehigh Valley Phantoms center Jordan Weal has taken over sole possession of second place on the American Hockey League scoring chart after totaling 15 goals and 45 points in only forty AHL games this term, it should be very interesting to see just exactly how the rest of this current 2016/17 campaign plays itself out for the rather skillful if undersized 24-year-old native of North Vancouver, British Columbia.
Although the loyal patronage at the PPL Center would surely be happy to see the 179-pounder who stands all of five feet and ten inches stay in Allentown for the duration of the season, Calder Cup playoffs included, there is little doubt that Weal, himself, is hoping to be promoted by the Philadelphia Flyers as soon as possible. One must remember that Weal, now in his fifth full term as a professional, spent all of last season at the National Hockey League level and pocketed a salary of $ 632,000 for having done so. Although Weal’s current two-way contract this season does have a fairly generous minor league split that pays $ 200,000 for AHL service, the bottom line is that the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs is actually making a little less than a third of what he was last season and that seems somewhat harsh considering the kind of form he has been in for Lehigh Valley.
Amazing enough, after notching 24 points in his first twenty AHL games this season, Weal appears to have become even more consistent on a night to night basis as of late — although Weal has been held pointless a total of eleven times this season, the simple fact is that the Phantoms’ All-Star center has been held off the scoresheet only twice on his last eighteen appearances for Lehigh Valley.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle blocking Weal’s path to an NHL recall is the fact that the Philadelphia Flyers appear to be fairly content with Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier — all three of whom were on the Canadian squad which won the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championship hosted by the Czech Republic — occupying the center slots on the top three scoring lines for the foreseeable future. Schenn’s current contract with Philadelphia does not expire until the conclusion of the 2019/20 campaign while Giroux and Couturier both have deals which ties them to the Flyers thru the duration of the 2021/22 season. Meanwhile, Weal’s particular talents are just not very well suited for a role as the checking line center.
On the other hand, the Philadelphia Flyers’ offense just has not been all that overwhelming for the past six weeks or so, as evidenced by the fact that the Broad Street Bullies have managed to score two goals or less 11 times in their last 19 NHL games dating back to December 11th. Would the Flyers be better off if either Giroux, Schenn or Couturier were shifted to a wing position and Weal were installed at center in a bid to jump start the attack? Forget about points for a moment, could Weal even win enough faceoffs at the NHL level to justify such a move?
Such are considerations which, at the end of the day, must be left for Philadelphia Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol.
As for Weal, whose current one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers organization runs out after this season is over, the only sensible thing to do is to keep piling up the points at the American Hockey League level and let the NHL recall chips fall where they may. It could very well be that Weal’s most lucrative option later this summer will be to sign as a free agent for another National Hockey League organization — or perhaps even a team overseas in Europe. Whatever the case actually turns out to be, conventional wisdom says that Weal can only strengthen his bargaining position by finishing as high up on the AHL scoring chart as possible.
Cover Image by Cheryl Pursell
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Categories: Phantoms Hockey