When Mark Arcobello agreed to terms on a one-year contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday it was almost like an epic journey was coming to an end, when in reality it is only just beginning.
Despite a solid four-year career at Yale University, in which the forward tallied 116 points (49-67-116) in 131 games, Arcobello was not drafted and it took hard work in the minors to eventually earn a place in the NHL.
“That was what I was playing for,” Arcobello said. “The goal to keep moving up and I think this was just a step in the process.”
The Milford, Connecticut native earned a spot with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League after making an impression in 33 games with the Stockton Thunder in the ECHL. He then went on to become the Barons’ all-time leading scorer in goals (60), assists (101), points (161) and playoff points (35).
5-foot-8, 166 pound Arcobello was superb in his 2012-13 season with Oklahoma City, posting 68 points (22-46-68) in 74 games. That season, he earned a one-game call up with the Oilers and eventually, in the summer, signed a one-year extension to re-join the club.
After three seasons in the minors, Arcobello began this year with the big club. He played 41 games for the Oilers, adding 18 points (4-14-18), before being sent back down to OKC.
“It was disappointing but it was kind of a reality check that shows me I’ve got some work to be done still. It’s something that I’m going to use this summer as a motivating factor of getting better and getting stronger and quicker.”
Arcobello went about the assignment to the AHL the right way. He used it as a motivational catalyst and dominated in his return to familiar territory. He has scored 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points in just 15 games with the Barons since his return, which has been halted due to a shoulder injury.
The way Arcobello handled the news that he would be returning to the AHL could have made a positive impression on the Oilers front office.
“It might have. I don’t really believe in going anywhere and not giving your best so coming down here was just part of the business. I wanted to handle it as a professional and playing well and trying to help this team win is definitely part of it and I’m proud of how things went.”
All the hard work and the usage of the minors as proving grounds were rewarded with a new opportunity on Monday. Arcobello had earned his first NHL one-way contract.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s another stepping stone into becoming a full-time NHL player. I’m going to take it just as that and try to continue the way I’ve been playing and the way I’ve been improving each year.”
Arcobello says he was always working towards another contract, but talks heated up the past few weeks.
Much like last season, Arcobello could have potentially garnered attention in free agency. However, the forward thought re-signing with Edmonton was the right thing to do.
“It’s the team that gave me my first chance. I feel comfortable here and I know a lot of the staff and the players I’m familiar with so it’s a comfort knowing I’m coming back to the people I’m familiar with. I think that’s a big thing. If I had to wait until July 1, there’s a lot of questions to be asked and there are things that can happen between now and then. I think it’s a good thing for me to know where I’m going to be next year, right now.”
The next step for Arcobello is earning a longer-term deal.
“It’s an opportunity and I feel I have to perform and earn that next contract,” he said. “It’s kind of a motivating thing that it’s just one year. It kind of puts a little more necessary pressure on me and I’m excited about it.”
There’s also little doubt that there will be opportunities in Edmonton next season to earn a spot. The roster is in a state of transition with General Manager Craig MacTavish making moves to help the franchise moving forward. Arcobello knew that there may be a chance to prove himself even more when the puck is dropped to start the 2014-15 season.
“Yeah, there’s always possibilities,” Arcobello said. “Who knows what’s going to happen in the offseason? Moves could be made that could help me out but at the same time, they could be made to bring guys in that would bump me down. That’s why I think it was important for me to get the one way. Right now, there’s not much I can do but prepare myself for next year.”
While Arcobello hopes to return from his injury in time to help the Barons in the playoffs, should they make it, he is already looking ahead to how he can better prepare himself for the grind of full-time NHL duty.
“Just trying to get a little more mass on me and be a little bit more stronger. If I can get quicker too with a little more explosiveness, it’d be great. Those are the things I’m going to focus on in the summer and those are the main things I think.”