Jordan Weal has been recalled by the Flyers to fill in for the injured Travis Konecny who has been placed on LTIR. Through 43 games with the Phantoms Weal has scored 15 goals and posted 32 assists for 47 points and is one of the AHL’s scoring leaders. Given the state of the Flyers offense, his addition is a welcome one.
With Weal being called up, the Flyers have been forced to shuffle their lines again. At practice this morning they were as follows.
Weal’s addition has already had a positive impact on the setup of the offense. For one, Schenn has moved to the wing where he had his success last year and is clearly more effective at 5v5. Playing with Giroux, who he played with most of the time last season, will allow Schenn to play to his strengths by feeding off of Giroux’s possession and play making abilities. This should help the struggling Schenn become more effective at even strength.
Individually Weal supplies offense through his playmaking ability. A majority of his points this season (68%) have come by way of assists. This percentage is identical to that of the injured Konecny and places him third among healthy forwards in that category. This ability to create plays will draw attention from opposing defenses. By placing him on a line with the speedy Voracek, he should have some extra space to work. This will hopefully get Voracek’s goal scoring to uptick as well as provide opportunities for Couturier who has yet to meet his full offensive potential.
The lines experimented with in practice today provide a solid top six, but still leave the aging problem of the third line unsolved. It is for this reason that I would like the third line to be tweaked. Perhaps the biggest, most underrated issue the Flyers have had this year is the issue of the third line, specifically finding a center for it. While I like the personnel on it for its strong puck possession numbers and Raffl’s speed, I would prefer to see Nick Cousins centering the line. The Flyers need to find a long term solution for the third line center role. Cousins is a natural centerman that has had some success in the role last year when he played with Laughton on his wing. With Cousins in the middle, Raffl can use his speed to drive wide and generate deep offensive zone penetration which will open up space for Cousins and Read behind him. Considering the Flyers like to move the puck from low to high in the offensive zone, this line should create a lot of chances.
The new line combinations should be a step forward, but that does not mean there is no room for further improvement. It will be interesting to see if Weal and Cousins are swapped for one another at some point and to see if Weal gets a look as the third line center. He is a natural centerman and has been playing in the middle in the AHL this season. The bottom line is that Flyers now have options to play with offensively and have an opportunity to rediscover the offense they had at the beginning of the season.