Last offseason, Ron Hextall steered clear of the market for free-agent forwards.

A build-from-within fundamentalist liked what he had internally.

"We felt really strongly about Jordan Weal," the Flyers' general manager said in June 2017. "If we didn't sign Jordan Weal, we might've looked for one more forward to try and upgrade our skill level."

This offseason, Hextall hasn't lost belief — in his method or the player. While he went out and reeled in James van Riemsdyk, Hextall has refrained from inking an external option to fill a void at third-line center.

"We're not willing to commit on term for someone that is maybe not an upgrade from the guys that we have in-house," Hextall said July 1.

It sounds like he's ready to put his faith in Weal again. In 2017-18, that faith wasn't rewarded as the forward scored 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 69 games, had a minus-10 rating and became a healthy scratch late in the season. The production was considered a disappointment after the Flyers signed Weal to a two-year extension following an eye-opening 23-game sample in 2016-17.

What's important to note is that Weal started just one game at center last season — Nov. 14 against the Wild. With the Flyers, he has transitioned to the wing out of necessity, away from his natural position. Maybe it's why he's been forgotten as a possible third-line center fit in 2018-19, against the competition such as Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost, Mike Vecchione and Mikhail Vorobyev.

 

"Jordan Weal, too, is a guy that I've mentioned," Hextall said Wednesday. "Nobody else seems to want to, but he's played center. He's a good centerman. He's good on faceoffs. He's good defensively. He makes plays. I suspect Jordan's going to bounce back. I don't think he had a terrific year last year, so he's certainly a candidate.

"But if we can upgrade in the meantime, we will. We're pretty comfortable, also, with what we have from within. You're always looking to upgrade every position. If we can upgrade, we're going to try and do it. We have internal candidates we feel comfortable with."

Weal, 26, will have to prove he can play both ends as an NHL third-line center, because it's clear he has the playmaking ability to provide the Flyers with secondary scoring. Put his skill and speed between a pair of finishers like Wayne Simmonds and Oskar Lindblom, and you see the potential. During last season's home-opening rout of the Capitals, Weal showed it in a play with Simmonds.

Hextall wants Weal, a well-known rink rat, to play a pressure-free game in 2018-19.

"Jordan cares so much," Hextall said. "Sometimes he can be his worst enemy. He's the last guy on the ice every day. 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. 

"When he gets on a roll, he's a good player. I suspect Jordan's going to come in really ready to play and focused and ready to show us what he showed us two years ago."

Once again, the GM is looking inside and so is Weal.

More on the Flyers