Jordan Weal entered the 2010 draft as strongly as he realistically could have. After a season in which he picked up 102 points, the CSS ranked him the 30th best North American skater heading into the draft, up 15 spots from his mid-season ranking. He was one of just three draft eligible players to notch more than 100 points in the entire CHL. The other two? Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin.
|25 (t)||Jordan Weal||4/15/92||Canadian||70 (3rd round)||35|
How did he fall to the Kings with the 70th overall pick in the 3rd round of that draft?
For one, he played with 19 year old Jordan Eberle, who had gone in the first round two years prior. Some people suggested that Weal's stats may be inflated due to playing with an elite talent. However, Weal continued to produce even after Eberle left for browner pastures in Edmonton. Although he played with elite talent in Eberle, perhaps it should be noted that he was also forced to play with Colten Teubert.
Secondly and more importantly, his size and strength were (and remain) huge concerns. He is currently listed at 5'9'' and 173 pounds on LAKings.com. While he has tacked on 10-15 pounds since being drafted, his strength is never going to be an asset. In spite of this, Weal's biggest asset seems to be his tenacity and work rate. Although diminutive in appearance, Weal never backs away from the tough areas. While he is a good skater with a strong first few strides, most experts seem to want him to be a bit faster to help off-set his size. Scouts commend his ability to drive play on possession instead of being primarily a transition scorer, although some wish he was a little more dynamic on the rush. They say he has a tremendous ability to break down a defense and that he uses a strong cycle/possession game to do so.
Since being drafted, Weal has done little but succeed. Over his last two seasons with Regina, Weal picked up 212 points in 142 games. In both of those seasons, not one of his teammates could even near shouting distance from his point total. He finished 44 points ahead of second-place Garrett Mitchell in 2011, and 61 points (!!!) ahead of Lane Schneidl in 2012. It appears that Weal took any potential criticism about his ability to create plays to heart.
Before the 2011/12 season, then-Kings' coach Terry Murray reflected favorably on Weal's growing maturity and mental game:
I thought he was one of the best players on the ice in those rookie games against Phoenix. But as I pointed out to him, the most important thing that I saw was a player who is maturing, growing up. He’s a better teammate. He’s a really good guy now. I thought he had a little bit of a problem with that in his first year here. But he has really grown up in that department. He’s making players on the ice with him better hockey players, through the right decisions and complementing those guys and finding them with his talent, his skills. So he’s bringing out the best in everybody as a result of that. To me, he left my office with me having a very positive feel about him going back and playing another year (in junior).
After making the leap to the AHL, Weal scuffled. For two months, Weal barely managed to scratch the stat sheet. Through 21 games, he had just 1 goal and 2 assists to show for his efforts. Fortunately, Weal's game came to him down the home stretch. After the calendar flipped to 2013, Weal picked up 30 points in 42 games.
Dean Lombardi has frequently mentioned Moneyball in discussing his approach to managing the Kings. Moneyball is about finding market inefficiencies and being unafraid of targeting players that don't necessarily fit the mold of a prototypical player. It's about seeing value where others don't.
Jordan Weal is certainly not a picturesque hockey player. His diminutive stature presents a red flag to any scout or executive that watches him play. His size is absolutely an obstacle he's going to have to work around. The good news for Weal (and perhaps for Kings fans) is that the game has never been as manageable for the little guy as it is now. Montreal made the playoffs despite fielding a team composed of Eddie Gaedel's twin brothers (or so I'm told every single time the subject of the Canadiens' roster comes up). Martin St. Louis frickin' owns. Pavel Datsyuk is considered one of the toughest players in the world to line up against and he's 5'10''.
Weal is not St. Louis or Datsyuk. However, he could certainly be compared to David Desharnais. The two scored at similar rates in juniors – Desharnais did so in the league where scoring comes easier – and in their first AHL season. Desharnais has since forged an NHL career in Montreal, earning a 4 year, 14 million dollar contract from the Habs. By the way, Desharnais is listed at 5'7'' – 2 inches shorter than Weal.
There is no question that Weal has a ton of work to do to sniff an NHL roster. With that said, he is certainly not doomed by his size. It will be important to remain patient with him as he continues to learn to use his slight stature against men. His progress in 2013 is very encouraging. If Weal can build on his success toward the end of last season, perhaps he can simply force himself on an NHL roster.
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