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March to become Penguins; Archibald and Guentzel are Mavs before NHL draftees.

Sports Editor

Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 16:12

Hockey Guentzel

Phots by J. Christoffersen

Jake Guentzel recieves the puck in scoring position.

The bright lights: Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, venues that host many of professional sports drafts, the best days of many young athletes lives. Junior Josh Archibald and freshman Jake Guentzel are drafted to the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the best organizations in the National Hockey League.

Unlike other sports like basketball and football, hockey draftees still have work to do. There’s no guarantee to actually see the ice in an NHL uniform. Archibald and Guentzel treat it accordingly.

“Obviously it’s just a start, it’s nothing really,” Guentzel said. “But you say by the name, you say the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s a start. We’ll see what happens in the long run.”

Guentzel, coming to University of Nebraska at Omaha straight out of high school, has had a spectacular career already in hockey, including his 75 points while playing Sioux City, Iowa for the USHL Musketeers. Despite already being selected, Guentzel is aware of how much work and improvement he needs to become an NHL player.

“I still have a lot of growing to do. Strength-wise, I’m probably one of the weaker ones, so I’ve got to get stronger and I’ve got to get faster and bigger,” Guentzel said. “It’s going to be a long haul but I’m already looking forward to it and my time here at UNO.”

Head coach Dean Blais sees the next-level potential in Guentzel’s game.

“He’s already knocking at the door for the number one of two center spot and that says a lot about a freshman who is just out of high school,” Blais said. “You can’t teach what he’s got and that’s hockey sense. That innate ability to make plays when there’s nothing there. Make something out of nothing.”

On the flip side Archibald, the Mavs’ other ‘pen’ is much different. Not only through style of play, but a player with two years of college hockey already under his belt.

“They’re different types of players,” Blais said. “Josh Archibald is a winger, very physical. He will come down, knock you down get the puck and score. They’re both affective but different players.”

Archibald finished second in team-scoring last year and second in goals scored with 19 for UNO. Along with teammates Ryan Walters and Dominic Zombo, Archibald makes up one of the best lines in college hockey. Similar to Guentzel, Archibald is not looking too far into the future, instead focusing on his time as a Mav.

“Blais does a lot of good things for his players, to get us ready for that next level it’s just a matter of if you want to get there and want to do it, especially with this new conference all the teams are pretty good so it’s going to be battles night to night and that’s going to help your game improve a lot,” Archibald said.

Nonetheless, the Canadian native who grew up with hockey in Minnesota and whose dad played at North Dakota when Blais was an assistant there,  is pleased with his current status.

“It was just a surreal moment, that’s every kids dream that grows up playing hockey to be able to say that I was drafted, especially by such a great organization as Pittsburgh is definitely a dream come true,” Archibald said.

Similarly Guentzel felt happy, as one would hope.

“It was obviously awesome,” Guentzel said. “Being with my parents, all they’ve done for me I couldn’t even describe what the day was like because it was just an unbelievable feeling.”

Although while at UNO, both still keep in touch with representatives of the Penguins.

“I kind of keep in touch with the player development coach,” Guentzel said.”He emails me what he wants me to do and stuff, he sets goal for me with face offs and obviously all that stuff. That’s just the main guy you keep in touch with.”

Archibald has been even more involved, but says Pittsburg lets him do his thing here.

“In the past, I have gone to their play developmental camp in the summertime,” Archibald said. “There’s not much you really have to do. You keep in touch with them every once in a while throughout the season but with us not being there and being with Pittsburgh’s organization during the season they like to keep us in our own organization here in Omaha, and have us do what we do here.”

UNO has six players that have early ties to NHL organizations, including sophomore Brian Cooper and junior Jaycob Megna with Anaheim, sophomore Nick Seeler with Minnesota and sophomore Tanner Lane with Atlanta.

Blais has coached NHL players before and he believes these two can make it.

“They both have NHL potential. When you get drafted it doesn’t mean you’re going to play in the NHL, it means that you have the opportunity someday,” Blais said. “I think both of them not only will have an opportunity I think both will play in the NHL.”

For the time being, the two potential penguins will remain as is, Mavericks.

UNO takes on Cornell at home this Friday at 7:37 p.m. and Saturday night at 7:07 p.m.

 

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