Perhaps the one element of surprise that is greater than the Edmonton Oilers lousy 1-6-1 record to start the year is that Mark Arcobello is part of the early conversation for rookie of the year.
Now talk is cheap and it is still early on in the season; in all likelihood, too early to be discussing potential candidates for rookie of the year but in this case, given it’s Arcobello, it’s worth mentioning.
According to Rory Boylen of The Hockey News, who compiled a top-ten list of early-season Calder Trophy candidates, Arcobello is second behind only the exciting Thomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks.
Entering training camp, Arcobello didn’t fit on many roster projections for what the Oilers lineup would look like on opening night. Given the injuries to Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the 25-year old rookie may have started the season in Oklahoma City, where he’s spent the past two seasons before getting a legitimate shot with the Oilers.
Now 8 games into the season, the undrafted centreman who has always been labeled as “too small for the NHL” has 8 assists and is rapidly drawing plenty of attention to himself.
It’s attention that is well deserved given he was written off by many, feeling he couldn’t contribute at the NHL level. The age of 25 isn’t exactly young when discussing rookies and there will be those critics that feel Arcobello shouldn’t be in the mix given his age and the difference of the majority on the list.
So what if he hasn’t scored a goal yet this season. He will and when you think of Doug Weight in an Oilers uniform, you think more about the goals that he set up than the ones he scored. Arcobello may not score 30-goals in a season but what’s wrong with compiling a boat load of assists, playing to a plus rating and helping this Oilers team turn things around? Absolutely nothing which is why it’s great to see the success of this Yale University product.
He also continues to win his share of faceoffs, another stumbling block that was feared to be a major weakness of he and the rest of the Oilers centreman, further proving his doubters wrong.
Whether or not Arcobello can maintain this point per game pace is doubtful, especially when Sam Gagner returns; a move that could bump Arcobello down to the fourth line. It’s also a move that would diminish his ice-time and likely his offensive production, resulting in him fading from the Calder talk.
But any struggles down the road from the Oilers top three centremen and you could see number 26 jolt back up the Oilers line combinations.
Whatever happens in the future is out of Arcobello’s control. For now, it’s just great to see him performing so well and it has to be gratifying for him to know that he’s finally made it to the NHL. At least that’s the indication you get when Oilers management told him to look for a more permanent residence in Edmonton.