Penguins prospect Josh Archibald returned to Pittsburgh this summer for the annual development camp after completing a stellar junior season with the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO). The 21-year-old forward notched 29 goals in just 37 games.
“I worked on a lot this past summer before the season with our strength coach,” Archibald said. “A lot of (my production) came from being stronger and being able to hold myself in the corners and walk out of the corners and stuff like that.”
The Saskatchewan native ended up a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA college hockey player last season.
“It was surreal,” Archibald said. “That’s every kid’s dream growing up, playing in the States and wanting to play college hockey, to be a Hobey Baker candidate. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They help me through everything, they put me up there and got me to where I was.”
Additionally, Archibald earned a slew of other honors. He was named an NCAA First-Team All-American, was the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) Offensive Player of the Week three times and the UNO Athletics’ Male Athlete of the Year. He attributed much of his success this season to the coaching staff at UNO.
“We have a great strength coach and obviously a great coaching staff there with Dean Blais and Troy Jutting,” Archibald said. “So that’s the main thing. Obviously Blais, who’s been at North Dakota and Minnesota, knows how to produce players and he does that very well. I’m very thankful to have played for him.”
Growing up, Archibald said he knew playing hockey in college was the right path. His dad Jim played collegiate hockey at North Dakota.
“My dad played college back when he was younger, so both my parents pushed me towards the college route,” Archibald said. “Growing up and watching everything, I knew it was definitely the route I wanted to take.”
But, after a fantastic campaign, Archibald decided to transition to the pros and made his debut for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL) on March 22. He scored his first career goal with WBS against Norfolk on March 28, and also scored during the Calder Cup Playoffs on May 17 against Providence.
“It was a great experience,” Archibald said. “A couple of guys took me under their wings, like Tom Kostopoulos, and helped me out throughout my first week there. But guys are obviously a lot bigger and stronger and they move pucks well, so it was a little bit of an adjustment. The AHL uses a lot more systems than the college level did. That was the biggest thing for me to get used to. Once I learned everybody’s systems, it wasn’t too bad.”
Archibald, standing at 5-foot-10 and weighing 181 pounds, was drafted by the Penguins in the sixth round (174th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft. On May 16, he signed a three-year entry-level contract that will begin with the 2014-15 season and run through the 2016-17 campaign. Archibald, who has found an abundance of success in his college career, knows what he needs to do to continue to get better and be successful at the pro level.
“There are a lot of things you need to do,” Archibald said. “You’ve got to get bigger, stronger, but mentally, you can’t get down on yourself. You have one bad day; you can’t take it out and have a bad week. You have to turn it around and get back up the next day.”