When USA Hockey released its preliminary roster for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team earlier this week, there was a new name on the list.
That belonged to Penguins prospect Josh Archibald
, who did not attend the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp this August but did earn an invite to Team USA’s World Junior Championship tryout camp Dec. 17-23 after a strong start to his freshman season at Nebraska-Omaha.
“Just the opportunity to represent your country, it’s just like a dream come true and a dream in the making right now,” Archibald said.
Archibald, the Penguins’ sixth-round pick (174th overall) in 2011, has adjusted well to the bigger and stronger players and faster pace in college hockey despite making the transition straight from Minnesota high school hockey.
He ranks third on the team with seven goals through 18 games and was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)’s rookie of the week on Nov. 15 after collecting a team-best four points in two games that weekend.
It’s the kind of play that Mavericks head coach Dean Blais, who is also the head coach of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team, hoped to see from his freshman forward.
“He likes how I use my speed to get around defensemen and make my own path to the net,” Archibald said. “Being 5-foot-10, some guys overlook me as probably being a kid that they can push around. But I play a lot bigger than I actually am. I go in the corners and dig the pucks out for the guys. So he said he really likes that about me.”
Someday playing for Blais has been a goal of Archibald’s since he first put on a pair of skates, as his dad Jim – a seventh-round draft pick of the Minnesota North Stars in 1981 – played for the respected coach in the early 1980s when he was an assistant at North Dakota.
But Archibald was in no way guaranteed anything when it came to this camp, as he wasn’t even made aware of the potential opportunity until he arrived in Omaha. He had to earn it.
“I didn’t really have any high expectations of making it,” he said. “But I was talking to coach early in the season and he was telling me if I played good and play like I can, I would at least have a good shot of getting looked at and maybe getting a chance to get to camp before Christmas.”
Archibald is excited that he’s gotten to the next step. And while he doesn’t have the advantage of going to the camp in August and knowing what to expect, he does have the benefit of attending Penguins prospect camp this summer.
"That helped me build confidence playing with a lot of older guys that some say are NHL-ready or even AHL-ready," he said. "That’s given me a lot of confidence in my play. Just being able to play up with some of those guys, it’s a great experience and it’s helping me a lot."
Archibald is just grateful to have an opportunity to showcase what he can do.
“I have to go in there with the mindset of never backing down and never giving up,” he said. “I’m going to play my heart out and just try to win every battle. Hopefully in the end it comes out well and I end up making that final roster.”