By NATE TENOPIR, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
The announcement of the 2011-12 UNO Hockey recruiting class included eight players – six out of the USHL, one from the Junior League in British Columbia and now an NHL draft pick.
Josh Archibald, a candidate for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award, will join UNO this fall as the sixth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who selected him 174th overall on June 25.
In his senior season at Brainerd High School in Brainerd, Minn., Archibald poured in 27 goals and 46 assists in just 25 games. His 73 points were good for second in scoring in Class AA – the larger of the two classes – Minnesota high school hockey.
“When you’re watching players and you’re looking at certain people that you want to be a part of your program, you look at some very specific things,” said Mavs assistant head coach Mike Hastings. “When you watch a player, are they hard to play against?”
“With Josh, he was hard to play against…trying to defend him, his offensive instincts. He’s hard to play against because he defends as hard as he plays offense, which is hard to find.”
Archibald joins new teammates Brent Gwidt and Bryce Aneloski as fellow Mavs who’ve been drafted by NHL teams. Gwidt, a forward, was also chosen in the sixth round, 157th overall by the Washington Capitals in 2006. Aneloski, a defenseman, was picked in the seventh round, 196th overall by the Ottawa Senators in 2010.
Unlike baseball, where drafted players have to sign within a few months or the team loses rights to them, Archibald, Gwidt and Aneloski can be picked up by the teams that drafted them once their careers at UNO end.
Hastings said one of Archibald’s biggest strengths is his versatility.
“He can bring it out and be physical, he can play a skating game, he can get up and down the rink with anybody,” he said. “And I think one of the biggest compliments is when the game is on the line, he wants to be in the middle of it.”
Archibald’s 73 points in 2010-11 broke the previous school record of 66 set in 1991-92. He achieved two hat tricks and had six other games with two goals. He also had two games with five assists, two games with four assists and was held off of the score sheet only once all season. Archibald scored seven of his goals on the power play, four while short-handed and averaged 2.89 points per game.
As Brainerd’s team captain, Archibald contributed off the ice as well, volunteering time with the MS Bikeathon and the Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association. He also held a 3.4 GPA during his high school career.
Hastings said he wasn’t surprised to see Archibald drafted, given the constant evolution in his game.
“He was putting up very good numbers in Brainerd as a high school player, and he has continued to develop over the last two years,” Hastings said. “He was somebody you were always watching because he just needed to get a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger.”
Archibald will be joined this fall by Jayson and Jaycob Megna, brothers who played on different USHL teams, Andrew Schmit from the Lincoln Stars, Dominic Zombo from the Sioux Falls Stampede, Brian O’Rourke from the Green Bay Gamblers, Ryan Massa of the Fargo Force, and James Polk out of the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.
Like last year, much of the UNO hockey team will be underclassmen, with 18 players on the team being either freshmen or sophomores. After graduating six seniors, only nine players will be seniors or juniors.
Though Archibald will be new to Omaha and UNO, he already has family connections to head coach Dean Blais. Archibald’s father Jim played for Blais at North Dakota when Blais was an assistant coach.
Jim Archibald ended his career there with a career mark in penalty minutes that still stands as a school and NCAA record. From there, he played right wing for the Minnesota North Stars, notching one goal and two assists in 18 NHL games.
Since then, Jim has been the head coach of the Brainerd High School hockey program, where he coached Josh throughout his high school career.