VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol didn't sugarcoat it.
He was discussing Jordan Weal and how it took an injury to James van Riemsdyk to get him in the lineup. Weal opened the 2017-18 regular season on the second line with Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds. After being considered a third-line center candidate during this preseason, Weal started 2018-19 as a healthy scratch.
"In terms of the No. 3 centerman position, [Mikhail Vorobyev] beat him out," Hakstol said Monday at Flyers Skate Zone. "So that had him on the outside looking in.
"Whichever way you want to look at it, he was outside of the top nine. There's no shame in that, Jordan had a good, hard-working camp, but going into the first couple of games, he was the odd man out of that group.
"Now he gets an opportunity to go in and his play will dictate the opportunity for him."
There was a taste of irony Monday for Weal. While he gets his shot to prove he can make a difference among the Flyers' forwards, it comes next to the guy who "beat him out" for the role at his natural position. Weal, 26, will slide into van Riemsdyk's left wing spot on the third line, alongside the 21-year-old Vorobyev and Simmonds.
No, Weal won't be playing down the middle, where he's most comfortable and some of his playmaking strengths are accentuated.
But getting on the ice in the home opener Tuesday? He'll take it.
Weal has played well with Simmonds in the past and is excited to see Vorobyev up close, not from the press box.
"He's been playing really well," Weal said. "He made this team right out of camp and he's earned it. It's going to be good to get out there and play with him. It seems like he's always in the right spot, making good plays. Me and Simmer can get out there and get some pucks and win some battles — it'll be good to work with those two."
During training camp, Weal admitted to overthinking the intricacies of the wing position last season and how the transition took longer than he had hoped (see story).
Those struggles could turn out to beneficial.
"I definitely learned a lot," Weal said. "I think every part of my game got a little more comfortable coming into this year. It's just a year-to-year thing. As you get more comfortable with the team, with the guys, with the league, you learn the dos and don'ts."
Simmonds knows what Weal can do.
"He's strong on the puck, he's good on puck battles, he's a hound dog," Simmonds said. "He forechecks like crazy."
Lineup from practice
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Jordan Weal-Mikhail Vorobyev-Wayne Simmonds
Scott Laughton-Jori Lehtera-Michael Raffl
Ivan Provorov-Shayne Gostisbehere
Robert Hagg-Andrew MacDonald
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas
"T.K., putting his speed, his tenacity, his playmaking, some of that dynamic ability together with Patty and Oskar, has a chance to grow into something that can be very effective as well. We're going to watch that."
- Dave Hakstol