When the American Hockey League released their All-Star Game rosters on Thursday, it was hardly a surprise to see Mark Arcobello‘s name listed as one of the participants for the Western Conference. And when news came out that the Hershey Bears were likely to send goaltender Philipp Grubauer back to the Reading Royals just so he could play in the upcoming 2013 ECHL All-Star Game presented by University of Colorado Health, it was hard not to think of the current Oklahoma City Barons forward.
Just two years ago, in the most recent ECHL All-Star Game, the now 24-year-old was sent back to the Stockton Thunder by the Barons under similar circumstances. And all he did was rack up a hat trick en route to winning MVP honors.
"I was in the American League, and I went back just for that. I was definitely happy I did afterwards," Arcobello recalled in a conversation with ECHL.com.
"It was a good experience, it was fun. I got to meet some new players and play with a couple new guys. They told me I was going for the All-Star Game and I was going back afterwards. It all worked out."
After four years of college hockey at Yale, Arcobello joined the Thunder for the start of the 2010-11 season, and found the adjustment to the pro game to be "tough" at first…and that was only based off of what his opponents were saying to him for going to an Ivy League school.
"Everything’s good-natured, but you definitely get a little bit of stuff," said Arcobello with a laugh.
"But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t take back going to an Ivy League school for anything. I know it’s going to help me out in the long run. But you get a little bit of joking around about it; you’re expected to be real smart and a nerd. But nothing too bad…I usually get it from the other Ivy League guys too."
Arcobello, who recorded three double-digit goal seasons in the competitive ECAC with the Bulldogs, scored seven goals and added 13 assists during his 33-game stint with the Thunder before his midseason call-up to the AHL. But he feels fortunate that he didn’t start his pro career there, crediting his time with the Thunder for making him a better player in the long run.
"I’m happy I got to start out in the (ECHL), because I got a lot of playing time," he said.
"I got a lot of pro games under my belt right off the bat, and I was playing the role that I would have liked to rather than being on the third or fourth line. I was in on power play situations, and I was a top-six guy, which was fun. I think that time was really valuable for my career to help me adjust a little bit better to the pro game rather than coming right to a higher level."
Ever since the 2011 ECHL All-Star Game, Arcobello has been in the AHL with the Barons. After a 43-point season last year, things have finally seemed to click for the Milford, Conn. native, as he’s on a nearly point-per-game pace this season.
"Everything’s been good this year," he said. "Obviously, the responsibility (was) downplayed a little bit since we (had) those guys down from the NHL, but things are going well and I’m still getting opportunities to play on the power play and be on the top line. I’m happy with how it’s going, and hopefully we can continue to win games."
In many organizations, Arcobello’s status would be much higher than what it currently is, but with the youth movement in the Barons’ parent organization, the Edmonton Oilers, featuring players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle just to name a few, his play has seemingly gone under the radar in the hockey community.
"I’ll fly under the radar all year as long as I keep putting up numbers and can contribute anyway I can, I don’t care who’s noticing really," said the 5-foot-9, 165 pounder.
"You’re going to get noticed eventually. Especially being an undersized guy, we have a lot of skill guys up front (in the organization), so I’m just kind of grinding it out and just want to see where it takes me."