Darren Archibald was the unlikeliest Canuck to play 16 games last season.
He was just a year removed from getting cut by the Chicago Wolves out of training camp, and starting a season in the ECHL.
But he not only clawed his way back and established himself in the AHL, he developed into the Utica Comet who the Canucks seemed to trust the most. When Daniel Sedin went down in March, it was Archibald who was recalled.
That was something special for the self-described late bloomer who was not only undrafted, but didn’t start playing in the CHL until he was 18 years old.
So was hearing GM Jim Benning at the draft. There, the GM said he was looking to add more “meat-and-potatoes” to the Canucks lineup.
That was some sweet music for the 24-year-old to hear this summer.
“That’s the definition of my game,” said Archibald, after re-signing with the Canucks last week as a restricted free agent.
“I’m not out there trying to do anything fancy or make highlight-reel plays. My job is to be strong on the forecheck and bring pucks to the net.”
Things promise to be more difficult for Archibald this year, no matter how much his offesason and those 16 games in the NHL last season further his progression as a player.
The Comets will be better, infused with sexier prospects, including Dane Fox, Brendan Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk.
Plus, the trust the team had in him last year may not translate with a new Canucks head coach and general manager making decisions. He’s one of the organization’s players who could be hurt most by the sweeping changes.
If Archibald is going to have a shot to stick in training camp or to be the one recalled when, say, a Sedin is injured, he is going to have to work harder than just about anyone.
That’s never been a problem for Archibald, who sacrificed his shot at an NCAA scholarship seven years ago to try out for the Barrie Colts.
He didn’t make the team, by the way. What he did do was put his head down, play a year in Junior A and try again.
If he failed to make it that next fall, at age 18, he would have basically flushed his chance at a scholarship for nothing.
“I wasn’t really nervous about that decision until the following year when I was trying out for Barrie again,” Archibald said, “but it all came together for me.”
He went on to put up 49 points with the Colts.
“It’s been the story of my whole life. Get knocked down. Get up. And overcome it.
“I never had my doubts I would play in the NHL. But it’s definitely been a long, hard battle. Guys my age had already been in the OHL a couple years by the time I got there.
“It made me more determined.
“I’ve been a late bloomer and I’ve taken baby steps the whole way.
“It’s nice to see it finally unfolding how I always imagined it would.”
It’s built a foundation in Archibald’s game that promises to be beneficial to the Canucks, even if he spends the entire season in Utica.
“Some guys are born goal-scorers and destined to be in the NHL, but most have to work harder to develop their game,” Archibald said.
“I’m one of those players who has to work twice as hard as anyone else.
“I hope my determination and hard work reflects on other players, too. I think a lot of that stuff goes a long way in a dressing room.
“I know I’m that way. If I see someone work hard and be successful, it rubs off on me, too.”
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