LA KINGS PROSPECT WATCH: Throughout the summer, Frozen Royalty will be taking a look at several of the Los Angeles Kings’ young prospects. In this installment, the focus is on 2010 third round pick, center Jordan Weal. Audio interviews with Weal and Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake are also included.
LOS ANGELES — Center Jordan Weal had a good first season in professional hockey in 2012-13 with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, scoring 15 goals and adding 18 assists for 33 points in 63 regular season games, with a +8 plus/minus rating and 38 penalty minutes.
If that was “good,” then what the 22-year-old native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, who was selected by the Kings in the third round (70th overall) of the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft, accomplished in 2013-14 must be labeled as “great.”
Indeed, Weal more than doubled his point total, scoring 23 goals and contributing 47 assists for 70 points, with an equally impressive +28 plus/minus rating and 42 penalty minutes in 76 regular season games.
A breakout season, to be sure.
“[Last season] was a lot of fun,” said Weal. “We had a really good group of guys, and we had a hard working team. When you have those two things, it’s pretty easy for good stuff to happen. We had solid defense, and we had fast, small forwards. Everyone gets along and we were on the same page.”
Added ice time and another year playing the more aggressive system the Kings are playing compared to the one instituted by former head coach Terry Murray, contributed to Weal’s increased offensive production.
“[The Kings system] let’s guys…especially in the offensive zone, attack,” Weal explained. “I’m a quick player, so it allows guys like myself…to use our quickness and use our speed to be aggressive and jump on the other team when they’re in their defending end.”
“[The system] really [stresses] defense first,” Weal elaborated. “It’s a five-man breakout in the defensive zone and then, when you get into the offensive zone, it’s kind of a five-man pressure. There’s points in the offensive zone where you’re pressuring as hard as you can. When you have a quicker, faster team, it can really emphasize that. We scored a lot of goals after forcing the other team to turn it over.”
Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake, who also serves as general manager of the Monarchs, pointed to increased ice time as a factor in Weal’s offensive output, but noted that it was not the only reason.
“It was the opportunity to play,” said Blake. “When you come in as a first year pro, there’s guys ahead of you all the time, veteran guys. Some of them move on. Tyler [Toffoli] and Tanner [Pearson], last year, and with Linden Vey [going up and down from Manchester to Los Angeles and back], Jordan played a prominent role.”
“This is his second year in the American league and I think he was ready to take advantage of it because of his off-ice habits and [because] he’s a student of the game,” added Blake. “He was able to step in and become a leader at a young age on that team. He was their best offensive player.”
“If you look at his progression, he came out of the Western Hockey League as a top scorer and he continued that path in the American league. He was our best player there last year, throughout the whole season.”
Very high praise for a second year pro who was not one of the top prospects in his draft class.
“Pretty awesome words from a future Hall of Fame defenseman,” Weal reacted. “It was easy to be offensive with the team we had and with the players I got to play with. With our system, the aggressiveness we had and the puck-moving defensemen that we had, it helped a lot. I think, especially our line [with Brian O’Neill and Sean Backman], we took advantage of those puck-moving defensemen and used our speed to get going in the offensive zone and spend as much time down there as we wanted.”
Weal pointed to his defensive zone play as an aspect of his game that he improved upon the most last season.
“Defensive zone [play] is always a work in progress throughout your whole career,” he noted. “As you take steps into different leagues you learn the do’s and don’ts and how to get out of your zone as efficiently as you can. If you can get out of your zone quickly and without expending [a lot of] energy, that’s best for the whole team because then you’ll have more energy to spend in the offensive zone.”
“I think that was one thing that was coming a lot easier—situational awareness in the defensive zone became a bit easier in the past year and allowed us to breakout easier and get going the other way,” he added. “I was watching video of other guys and watching video of myself, learning where the right spots are to be when the puck is in certain situations, say, in the corner or behind the net.”
“Defensive zone is work ethic and positioning. Those are the two things that you really have to focus on. Positioning is more the mental side. That’s really what I took some strides in.”
At 5-10, Weal’s size and strength will always be a concern. In fact, when he was drafted, he weighed a scant 162 pounds.
Four years later, he is up to 183-184 pounds and is now making significant progress in gaining strength and weight.
“Throughout my teen-age years, I always developed, physically, slower than some of my peers,” said Weal. “I feel like now that I’m getting to the 22-24 years of age [range], I’m catching up. Putting on weight is coming a lot easier. During the summer, when I’m trying to put on muscle and increase my speed, it’s definitely coming a lot easier.”
“When I was younger, my metabolism was really fast,” added Weal. “It was a struggle. Now it’s starting to slow down a little bit, it’s getting easier to reach my goals in terms of size and getting bigger.”
Weal is back in the gym this summer, adding more muscle to his frame. But he was also able to add a little weight during the season last year, which is unusual for hockey players—they usually lose weight during the season.
“Especially during [last season], I gained some weight during the year,” he noted. “That’s never happened to me before and it really helped me out. Instead of being 170-175, battling against a guy who was 190—during the course of a long season, those five or ten extra pounds [of muscle] is going to add up. You’re going to be fresher by the end of the year.”
Weal indicated that he gained six or seven pounds during the season.
“My body fat dropped, too,” he said. “First time that’s ever happened [during a season].”
The AHL schedule actually contributed to Weal’s ability to add muscle during the season.
“You get a little membership to a health club and especially when we’re playing three [games in three nights on weekends], you can go to the gym on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because you have time to rest for the Friday game.”
Weal must add more muscle to his frame if he is to have any hope of making it to the NHL to stay. But has the added muscle and weight had an adverse effect on his speed, which may be his most potent weapon?
“No, actually, it didn’t,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. I wasn’t weighing myself much during the season, but then we had a mandatory weigh-in and I weighed in six pounds heavier, but I still felt the same on the ice.”
An indicator of Weal’s improved strength is his improvement in the face-off circle. He even held his own against former NHL center David Steckel, a face-off specialist, during the Monarchs’ playoff series against the Norfolk Admirals back in April.
“We had him in [at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California, the Kings’ practice facility], just the other day, doing face-offs,” Blake noted. “We brought him in specifically to deal with face-offs. We went over his game tape. In the playoffs against Norfolk, David Steckel, who spent time in the NHL, is predominantly a face-off man. There were no issues with Jordan against him.”
As hard as Weal has been working to get stronger, Blake indicated that his work ethic extends well beyond the gym.
“He competes very hard, puts up offensive numbers,” said Blake. “He’s more of a student of the game—I just got to know these guys last year, so I wasn’t really familiar with them. [But] whenever I was out there, he was either in the gym, or he was at the computer, looking at his shifts, going over from [earlier] games.”
“The impression I had was that he’s very eager to get better and in any of the camps we’ve had him in, he’s always willing to come and he’s ready to go,” added Blake. “It’s funny. All of these guys—they all want to be hockey players or pro players. But there are some who separate themselves in what they do to become a pro player and I think he’s at the head of that class. His professionalism—he’s doing everything he possibly can to become an NHL player.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Jordan Weal (15:08)
Rob Blake (3:43)
Stick tap to Dobber Hockey for mentioning this story on their site.
Frozen Royalty’s Jordan Weal Coverage
- LA Kings F Jordan Weal Remains Focused Despite Disappointing NHL Debut
- Jordan Weal and Nick Shore: Who Has The Edge For LA Kings 3rd Line Center Spot?
- LA Kings’ Rob Blake On Jordan Weal: “There’s Not A Lot of Players Like That Around”
- From Doubts To Dominating: LA Kings F Prospect Jordan Weal Has Risen To The Top Of The AHL
- Center Prospect Jordan Weal Is Turning Heads At LA Kings 2013 Training Camp
- LA Kings Center Prospect Jordan Weal Talks About 2012-13 Season, Challenges Still Ahead
- LA Kings Center Prospect Jordan Weal Continues To Work On Overcoming “Big” Obstacle
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- Frozen Royalty Audio: LA Kings 2012 Development Camp
- Frozen Royalty Audio: 2011 Los Angeles Kings Development Camp – Part 1
- LA Kings Work Young Prospects Hard At 2010 Development Camp
- LA Kings Take Some Risks In 2010 NHL Entry Draft
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