Penguins minor league notebook: Unheralded winger has shot to make it big
WILKES-BARRE — If there's one player who has a chance to emerge from the largely uninspiring collection of forward prospects in the Penguins organization and become an impact player in the NHL, it's winger Josh Archibald.
A sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Archibald is turning pro off a breakout junior year at Nebraska-Omaha that included 29 goals in 37 games.
He's slight at 5-foot-11, 176 pounds and only played his first AHL game Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre, but he has intriguing strengths.
One is production. His goal total was the second best in the country this season, trailing only Hobey Baker favorite Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College. In a 10-game stretch through the end of February, Archibald had 14 goals and 20 points.
“You could say I was a little hot at the end of the year, I guess,” Archibald said.
Another is speed. He has the wheels not only create to offense but also to excel on the forecheck.
“He's a real quick skater,” coach John Hynes said. “He's very competitive on the puck. He has the ability to score and make plays.”
The last is snarl. Archibald plays a feisty game that belies his size. In his first full AHL practice, he turned heads by throwing a hip into defenseman Philip Samuelsson during a battle for a puck along the boards. Archibald's father, Jim, was an intimidating forward for the University of North Dakota and as a Minnesota North Stars prospect in the 1980s.
“I'm pretty comfortable throwing the body around,” Archibald said. “If you look at my dad, he still holds the record for penalty minutes in the NCAAs. I've got that extra edge to me. I like playing that game, too.”
Chuck Kobasew has been a dominant player for the Baby Pens since being waived and sent down at the NHL trade deadline, scoring in each of his first five games with the team.
Last Sunday, he set up defenseman Brendan Mikkelson's game-tying goal with 1:04 left in regulation and scored the game winner in overtime in a 3-2 victory over the Albany Devils. The Baby Pens are 6-2-1 since Kobasew joined them.
“I haven't played these kind of minutes in a long, long time,” Kobasew said. “It's a lot of fun.”
Under the radar
The Penguins are taking a look at an unheralded prospect on defense this spring, bringing in undrafted free agent Alex Boak to practice with the Baby Pens and perhaps play in games for the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers.
A sturdy 6-1, 210-pounder, Boak had 31 points and 324 penalty minutes in 148 career games at Clarkson University. He attended the Penguins' development camp last summer.
The Penguins had three prospects in the NCAA hockey tournament, which began Friday night.
Bryan Rust (16 goals-15 assists-31 points in 39 games) is a senior right wing for Notre Dame, Scott Wilson (7-11-18 in 29) is a junior left wing for UMass-Lowell, and Teddy Blueger (4-22-26 in 39) is a sophomore center for Minnesota-Mankato.
Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.