Jordan Weal stared away and smiled as if he was caught in the act.
He didn't do anything wrong.
This was a case of general manager knows best.
Weal is a rink rat. When practice is whistled over, he stays out for extra work. He's almost always the last player to trickle off the ice and into the locker room at Flyers Skate Zone.
The dedication is commendable, but …
"Sometimes he can be his worst enemy," Flyers GM Ron Hextall said in July.
"He works his tail off. Sometimes you just want to go, 'Jordan, get off the ice and relax a little bit.' He's so driven to be the best he can be. It's something he can get better at, in terms of the mental part of it where sometimes you've got to let things go."
With the Flyers ready to rely on Weal, his first full NHL season fell short of expectations in 2017-18. The production wasn't there and he became a healthy scratch toward the end of the Flyers' stretch run (see story).
Hextall has conveyed his thoughts to Weal. What ate away at the 26-year-old could be the reason why Hextall expressed such firm belief in Weal for 2018-19.
"About getting into my head too much and just going and playing," Weal said last week, completely understanding Hextall's point.
"I think most of that last year was trying to get used to wall plays and stuff like that. Playing a new position at wing, there are so many different little wall plays that you get on the boards, different circumstances that you have to react to and know how to deal with. A lot of that was just trying to get comfortable with those and I feel like toward the end of the year, I was. Maybe in the beginning I was stressing out a little too much about those things."
How about playing Weal at center, his natural position? It could do wonders. It's where he doesn't overthink and plays freely. It's where he lets his ability take over and his game his accentuated. Ultimately, it's where he's most confident.
"Something I've done for a long time, that's probably the biggest thing," Weal said of playing center. "I feel like I can use my strengths to the max, up the middle, create plays coming through the middle of the ice, especially in the neutral zone, the offensive zone and in the D-zone — all three."
With holes and uncertainty at the center position in their bottom six, the Flyers shifted Weal back to the middle entering training camp. He's now pushing to win a job in that spot, but the competition is thick. Mikhail Vorobyev, only 21 and a third-line center candidate, has turned heads in the preseason with two goals and an assist over five games, while 28-year-old Corban Knight and 30-year-old Jori Lehtera played down the middle Monday as Weal sat.
Two preseason games remain before opening night and Weal will get at least one at center. Regardless of how Weal plays, Hextall has the book on him. In 2010, Weal was a third-round pick of the Kings and developed under Hextall's watch.
"Ron has seen me in Manchester, in L.A., in Lehigh, he's seen me a lot at center ice," Weal said, "and he knows what I've got."