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Happy to be Here

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

When asked what it felt like to be selected by the Penguins in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, big smiles crept onto both Dominik Uher’s and Josh Archibald’s faces.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Uher.

Added Archibald: “I was just shocked.”

Uher, a 6-foot, 195-pound forward who spent last season with Spokane of the Western Hockey League (WHL), was sitting at his computer at home in the Czech Republic, feverishly checking the Internet as the draft unfolded.

When his name finally appeared as the Penguins’ fifth-round choice (144th overall), Uher couldn’t believe it.

“It’s a great organization and I’m so happy to be here,” he said.

He came into his own last season with the Chiefs, finishing with 21 goals and 60 points through 65 games – a monumental increase from the four goals and 16 points he posted through 53 games in 2009-10.

“It was very hard for me when I first got there,” he admitted, citing the transition from European-style hockey to North American as the reason for his initial struggles. It also didn’t help Uher knew no English, an area he’s also improved drastically in thanks to the help of his teachers and roommates in Spokane.

But despite his drastic improvement, Uher’s coaches in Spokane weren’t sure about where he would be drafted.

“I knew (being drafted) might happen,” Uher said. “So I was kind of nervous, but when I saw my name under the Penguins I was pretty happy.”

Uher classifies himself as a hardworking player similar to a power forward, who thrives on the physical aspect of the game – something he loves about the North American style of play.

“Now I’m used to playing American hockey and I like it more than the European style,” he said, adding with a grin, “so right now I enjoy hitting.”

Archibald played last season with Brainerd High School in Brainerd, MN, posting 73 points (27G-46A) in 25 games. The 18-year-old was named a finalist for the state’s prestigious Mr. Hockey award while serving as team captain.

Archibald, the son of former NHL player Jim Archibald, was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. The family moved to Minnesota prior to Archibald starting the ninth grade.

Once in the state, Archibald began attending hockey camps run by Penguins scout Chuck Grillo.

And that’s who gave Archibald a call when the Penguins selected him in the sixth round (174th overall).

“While the draft was going on I got a call from one of the Pittsburgh staff, Chuck Grillo,” he said. “I know him pretty well, he lives up in Minnesota and I go to his camp a lot. He called me and asked me if I’d like to be a Penguin. I was just shocked. I didn't know what to say. He said that they had just drafted me. It is just an unreal experience to be able to come down here and experience all of this.”

Archibald said he had talked to Pittsburgh throughout the season, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that the organization drafted him.

But standing in the Penguins locker room dressed in official team workout gear, he noted how surreal the experience has been so far for him.

“It honestly hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said. “But ever since I got here it’s kind of setting in and I’m realizing what everything is about.”

The 5-foot-10, 161-pound forward sees himself as an “aggressive player.”

“I’m a good skater, but I also see the ice really well so I can pass the puck and just do whatever I need to,” he added.

Archibald, who will be attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the fall, has no immediate timeline for his future plans.

“I’m just taking it one year at a time,” he said. “I’m going in there looking to get the experience, get bigger, hopefully become NHL ready soon.


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