Oilers’ Arcobello makes a big entrance to the NHL
New Edmonton centre an undrafted, undersized overachiever lauded by Eberle, coach Krueger
EDMONTON -The story goes that when word of Mark Arcobello’s call-up to the Edmonton Oilers got around the locker-room of the Oklahoma City Barons, the players let loose a loud cheer.
And not just because another of their teammates was going to the NHL, but because it was the undrafted undersized overachieving forward who earned his way to the show.
“He worked hard to get to this point, and you’re excited every time you see players who weren’t drafted get up here,” said Jordan Eberle, who played with Arcobello for the Barons in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout and will again on Wednesday against the Dallas Stars.
It will be the 24-year-old’s first NHL game.
“He’s a smart player. That’s probably the biggest thing that makes up for his size — much like Nuge when he first came in,” Eberle said. “He’s got great vision, he thinks the game well, he’s got a great shot, and he’s good in his d-zone.”
Arcobello, listed at a generous five-foot-nine, was pinch-hitting for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder injury) against the Stars on a night when the Oilers were also without centres Shawn Horcoff (broken knuckle) and Eric Belanger (broken toes).
Arcobello said his first NHL game was more nerve-racking than any test he wrote while attending Yale University, where he majored in political science.
“I guess the most exciting things in life are pretty nerve-racking at first,” he said. “(But) I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.
“You do what you can and sometimes some things just aren’t up to you. I’m just happy I’ve got this opportunity. It’s been something I’ve been working for.”
Determination is what propelled Arcobello from Yale to the ECHL and eventually to a two-year contract with the Oilers. Always, he told himself he’d get his shot in the NHL.
When the Oilers called up Arcobello, Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger said it was because he was the best of the Barons forwards and not only because he’s contributed 35 points in 42 AHL games. It was also because his defensive game has been good enough that he was also playing with the Barons’ penalty-killers.
During the four years he spent at Yale, Arcobello, who hails from Connecticut, played against Krueger’s son, Justin, who was attending Cornell.
“When you’re a smaller player, you had better be very, very smart to make up for that disadvantage, especially with the defensive battles,” Krueger said. “We feel comfortable with him.”
“I have confidence in my abilities,” said Arcobello. “I’ve done well at other levels. I’ve played with a few guys in this room before. There might be a bit of an adjustment period, but I think I’ll be all right.
“Seeing my hard work payoff is something I’m proud off. I started in the east coast three years ago and I’ve been working my way up. It’s nice I’m getting the chance now.”
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