The Canucks are continuing to get business taken care of, and after signing Joseph LaBate earlier today, they’ve re-upped a 2016-17 team MVP. No, not Bo Horvat, who remains without a contract, but Darren Archibald, the 2016-17 MVP of the Utica Comets.
The #Canucks have signed Utica MVP Darren Archibald to an AHL deal.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) July 7, 2017
Archibald had a banner year with the Comets last season, leading the team in goals (23), points (47), and primary points (37), while also being the only Comet to play all 76 games. His efforts were rewarded at the end of the season, as he took home the Tom McVie Award as the Coach’s MVP, and the Mohawk Valley Media Player of the Year Award.
He played all over the lineup, from the fourth line to the first, but had his most productive stretch when aligned with Curtis Valk and Alex Grenier (both of whom have since signed NHL contracts with the Florida organization). Put together in early January, the line caught fire, combining for nine goals and 23 points in just a six game span. They were so utterly dominant for a short period that I labeled the whole line the Players of the Week in mid-January Comets update.
Originally signed as a CHL free agent by Mike Gillis in December of 2013, Archibald has spent the last seven and a half seasons as a member of the Canucks organization in some capacity. After his ELC ended, he signed one-year deals for both 2013-14 and 2014-15. In the former of those years, he made his NHL debut for John Tortorella’s Canucks, scoring a goal and adding two assists in 16 games. His 1.46 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes remains the eighth highest among all Canucks with at least 100 cumulative minutes between 2013-14 and 2016-17.
After he wasn’t given a contract following the 2014-15 season, Archibald stuck around and signed with the Canucks ECHL affiliate at the time, the Kalamazoo wings. Just a few weeks into the 2015-16 season, he was given an AHL contract, and has stuck with the Comets ever since.
— LilyNHL (@LilyNHL) November 13, 2016
Archibald is a heart and soul player, and an absolute fan favourite in Utica, beloved for his vibrant personality and thundering body checks (see above). But as the higher video shows, he can be a productive player as well. I’ve often wondered if the Canucks aren’t better off giving Archibald an NHL contract, giving his size and skill set, and the fact that the numbers he put up in limited NHL action a few years ago are better that a lot of the depth options the Canucks are using today. For instance, his 2013-14 NHL Corsi-For percentage of 47.5%, while not overly impressive, ranks ahead of nearly every bottom six player the Canucks have used since then, and a few top six players as well, including Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, Markus Granlund, and Sven Baertschi.
The fact that Archibald is at least back playing with the Comets keeps him close, in case the Canucks decide to do what they did with Mike Zalewski in 2015-16 – sign him to an NHL contract mid-season immediately preceding a promotion to the big club. I also wondered is Travis Green’s familiarity with Archibald could be a benefit in this regard.
Given the talent that is likely to flood Utica in the fall (even if it’s not Boeser or Goldobin, it could be Rodin or Burmistrov other solid adds), Archibald is likely to start in Utica’s bottom six. Of course, that’s where he started last year too – and he ended up being the team’s leading scorer and MVP.