On the heels of a breakout season with the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, the Oilers have re-signed centre Mark Arcobello to a one-year contract extension.
"I'm very thankful for the opportunity the Oilers have given me," Arcobello said. "It's very exciting and it's even better to get it out of the way so early in the summer. Being under contract is a good step, but it's only the beginning. Now I need to go in and do my best to crack the (Oilers) roster in the fall."
The 24-year-old product of Milford, Connecticut was set to become a restricted free agent on Jul. 1. While several European clubs were interested in his services, the three-year veteran described an extension with the Oilers as his "top priority."
Arcobello had an oustanding 2012-13 campaign, netting career-highs in goals (22) and points (68) before truly emerging as an elite marksmen.
Leading the Barons to their second straight appearance in the Western Conference Final, the Ivy League graduate recorded 12 goals and eight assists in 17 post-season games.
Crediting much of his success to the lockout and the resulting impact of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Arcobello believes he's a much better player now than he was nine months ago.
"It was a funny year with the lockout and everything, but it was a positive one," he said. "Playing with those guys was a big thing for me. It helped me realize what parts of my game I needed to improve on and how much quicker I needed to be.
"Even when the lockout ended and those guys went back up to Edmonton, I feel as though I was a better, more well-rounded player after having gotten the opportunity to play with them. Over the course of the year, I kept getting into more of a groove and I was fortunate enough to keep it going throughout."
Arcobello didn't miss a beat without them, however. In addition to helping the Barons post one of the League's best records down the stretch (22-9-0-6), the 5-foot-9, 165-pound pivot was awarded a starting spot in the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic.
Less than a week after posting three assists and helping the Western Conference edge the East 7-6, Arcobello was recalled to Edmonton where he made his NHL debut on Feb. 6 against Jaromir Jagr and the Dallas Stars.
Filling in for Nugent-Hopkins between Hall and Eberle on the top line, Arcobello played 18:15 and was even on the night.
"I was really nervous and didn't want to make a mistake," he laughed. "You try and relax as much as you can, but the emotions are running high. Overall, it was a surreal experience and I hope it wasn't my last. It gave me a little taste of what the NHL is like and it's made me even hungrier to stick.
"I got a lot of great feedback when I was up there. Everyone involved was extremely helpful in clearly communicating what I needed to work on moving forward. I feel like I've already grown a lot since then, so I can't wait to get back up there and show them my progress."
It's a challenging road to crack an NHL roster, but Arcobello is no stranger to the bumps, scrapes and elbow grease required to help make it happen.
And considering Dallas Eakins is now in charge, none of it will come as a surprise.
"He expects and demands a lot from his players," Arcobello said. "That's a good thing. He's disciplined and he wants to push the players as much as possible.
"That's what players need sometimes. I'm looking forward to showing him what I've got come September instead of being on the other side of it against the (Toronto) Marlies."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick