Ian Clark's On Hockey: The Monarchs' Weal of fortune
JORDAN WEAL just keeps rolling along.
Now in his second full season with the Manchester Monarchs, the 21-year-old center has proven that he can adapt to the differing styles of many linemates and still produce. Weal leads the Monarchs in scoring with 43 points on 10 goals and 33 assists. He is ninth in the AHL in scoring and third in assists.
"He's made steady strides in the time he's been with us. His strength is his puck possession and his stickhandling ability. He's learned a great deal about how to use other people around him better," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "His puck distribution is improving a great deal and he's a big part of our scoring. He also has done a good job making himself stronger and doing his off-ice routines to enhance his chances of playing at the next level."
Weal is a 5-foot-10, 170-pound speedster from North Vancouver, British Columbia, who was selected by Los Angeles in the third round of the 2010 draft. He credits his success this year to the overall team effort, which has helped Manchester to the top of the AHL standings with a record of 30-13-7.
"It's been good. The team has been having a lot of success and when the team has success it's easy for guys to have personal success as well," Weal said. "The team is playing really well and the systems we play are really aggressive and it helps the offensive guys get on the puck and try and create as much as they can."
Weal put up huge numbers in junior hockey. In three seasons with Regina from 2008 to 2001, Weal scored 94 goals and 175 assists in 212 games. But like many scoring phenoms coming out of the junior ranks, making the transition was tough.
Weal played nine games with the Monarchs between 2010 and 2012, registering just one assist. In 2011-12 he went back to Regina full time and posted big digits again with 41-75-116.
"It's a big step when you come from a team where you were able to lug the puck and carry it and basically be the show," Morris said. "Now, he's surrounded by other guys that complement his abilities and his learning how to manage the puck at different increments of the game has improved a great deal. In his first few games with us I think he was a little hesitant to move the puck. Now, he's utilizing his wingers and has improved his defensive awareness."
Weal's ability to adapt to his linemates has been a big part of his success. Early in the season he centered Nick Deslauriers and Brandon Kozun, a pair of snipers. Now he's on a speed line with Yale University products Brian O'Neill and Sean Backman.
"He's adjusted quite well. He and Deslauriers and Kozun were a pretty dynamic line combination," Morris said. "We've put him with other players and he's been pretty effective with them as well and that's a good thing to see, where you're adaptable. I think the combination he's with now with our two Yale Bulldogs, it gives him an element of straightaway speed. You'll see him get pucks up to those guys when they are in full-flight now where in the early part of the season he might have hung onto pucks a little bit too long and brought the rush to a halt as he was trying to create through the neutral zone."
Weal said that being able to adjust is part of it, but the rest is really just playing hockey.
"You've got to adapt a little bit, but it's still playing the same system," Weal said. "DLo, he loves to shoot so if he's coming down the wing you've got to know that most of the time he's going to be firing the puck on net so you can get to the net and find a rebound. O'Neill and Backman, they like the little chip (passes) and give-and-go and things like that. If you get open for them, they're going to find you. It's just hockey smarts and knowing who you're playing with and how to get the best out of their attributes."
PINK IN THE RINK: Saturday night's game between the Monarchs and Providence Bruins is the annual "Pink in the Rink" night, featuring pink ice and the Monarchs wearing special pink jerseys that will be raffled off.The event, sponsored by the Monarchs Care Foundation and Catholic Medical Center, will raise money and awareness for breast cancer. This is one of the Monarchs most popular events and has been a sold out game in the past. Tickets are still available at manchestermonarchs.com.
GIVE A GIFT OF BREATH: The Second Wind Foundation is selling tickets to the Saturday, Feb. 22 Monarchs game against Portland and for every $20 ticket sold, the Monarchs will donate $8 to finding a cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis. Pulmonary Fibrosis is a rare and fatal lung disease that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Ian Clark covers hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.