Jordan Weal isn't the kind of player who's going to let someone stand in the way of what he wants. Whether it's a puck in the offensive zone or a career in the NHL, he has little problem going over, around or through whatever roadblock is in his path.
Nothing slowed the Regina Pats center this season, as he finished second in the Western Hockey League with 67 assists and third with 102 points. His play earned him a trip in January to the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, and a jump up NHL Central Scouting's rating of North American skaters for the 2010 Entry Draft from No. 45 in the midterm to No. 30 in the final rankings. He also earned a spot on Canada's entry for the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, to be played later this month in Belarus.
"He's a smaller player but he battles like a guy who's 6-1 or 6-2," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan, who scouts the WHL, told NHL.com. "He goes in and gets knocked down and people say he's too small (but) he'll go through the wall to make a play."
He went through enough walls that scouts now have no choice but to pay attention to the 5-foot-8 1/2, 165-pounder.
Today's NHL game allows smaller players to flourish, but generally they're not as physical as Weal likes to be. He had 54 penalty minutes this season, and playing on a line with Jordan Eberle, his job was to win puck battles along the wall and find Eberle for scoring chances.
"He's a guy that goes to the tough areas to get pucks," Eberle told NHL.com. "He doesn't beat them with his size and strength, but uses his quickness and speed to his advantage to beat guys out of the corner. It's something you don't see very often in the Western Hockey League, 5-8 guys beating 6-4 guys out of the corner."
Weal doesn't worry too much about his height, because he can't change it. Instead, he's just going to go where he has to go to help his team, no matter where it is or what it takes to get there.
"A lot of the goals now are scored on rebounds around the crease, about five feet out," Weal said. "If you can get to those dirty areas at the right time, you're going to find yourself getting a lot of goals like that."
Scoring never has been a problem for Weal, just like it's never been for Eberle. If Weal stays on the same path Eberle blazed, Weal likely will find scoring easier at the next level as he gets bigger and stronger.
"I think as he gets binger and stronger he's only going to get better," Eberle said. "He's got a big summer ahead of him."
Weal sees where Eberle is going -- the 2008 first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers is being talked about as a future franchise cornerstone, and has 10 points in his first eight American Hockey League games with Springfield -- and is smart enough to listen when his former linemate gives him advice.
"It's just the little things -- interviews, how was this experience, what do I need to expect from something like this, the (Top Prospects) thing, going to the (NHL Scouting) Combine, what should I be ready for, Weal said. "He said don't get too hard on yourself. Especially when I was young last year, if I had a bad game, I'd probably get a little too hard on myself. He's one of the first guys to say to me it's a 72-game year, there's lots of time to get it back."
Eberle watched his teammate mature a great deal this season, and sees only a bright future for Weal.
"He proved that he can play at a high level," Eberle said. "I think for sure teams are going to get a steal of a pick."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org