Arcobello hopes to stick in Arizona

LOS ANGELES -- Growing up in Milford, Connecticut, Arizona Coyotes forward Mark Arcobello lived in the same house his entire childhood. It wasn't until he went off to college that he first had to pack his bags and leave home. And that heartfelt goodbye involved a mere 11-mile journey Northeast to New Haven, where he played four seasons at Yale University.

Four years of pro hockey following his time at Yale helped take Arcobello out of his comfort zone. But nothing could have prepared him for an unusual breakout 2014-15 season that saw the 26-year-old wing traded, waived, picked up, waived again and claimed one more time -- all in a span of 45 days.

"It's been busy. It's always weird trying to adapt to a new team and learn all the new guys' names," Arcobello said. "It's been a crazy year, thinking about it now. It doesn't feel like four teams. Maybe two or three."

After turning pro with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL in 2010, the undrafted Arcobello was signed by the Edmonton Oilers, with whom he played one game in 2012-13 and 41 games with in 2013-14, collecting four goals and 18 points. The hope was this would be the year Arcobello stuck around in Edmonton.

What began as a trial by fire with a struggling Oilers team that started 7-22-7 quickly turned into an unexpected whirlwind tour of the NHL in which he dressed for four different teams in seven weeks.

After living out of two suitcases and going from one hotel to another since being traded to the Nashville Predators for Derek Roy on Dec. 29, Arcobello has finally moved into the home of Coyotes teammate Sam Gagner. And the reality of his wild ride through the NHL is finally setting in as he looks to earn a long-term roster spot on a rebuilding Arizona team.

"I believe I can play in this league and can do well," Arcobello said. "It kind of bolsters that a little bit when you get picked up a couple of times, knowing there are teams putting claims in that want you, regardless of if it's for a couple of weeks or a few games. They need you, and they know you can play at that level."

Arcobello's Nashville tenure was of the "few games" variety. With James Neal hurt and the Predators desperate for a natural right wing, Arcobello scored in his first game with Nashville. But just 16 days after being dealt from the cellar-dwelling Oilers to the resurgent Predators, the undersized wing was put on waivers.

He was claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who like the Predators were looking for help on the right side. By his second game in Pittsburgh, Arcobello was skating on a line centered by Evgeni Malkin. But if his previous experience had taught him anything, it was to not get too comfortable.

"In Nashville, they were pretty open with me about [being waived]. I kind of saw it coming in the days leading up to it, so it wasn't really a shock. I was happy to be picked up by Pittsburgh," said Arcobello. "When I got there, I realized they also had guys who were injured. Once they got back, it was going to be another situation where I was fighting for a spot. So it was kind of the same thing there."

Arcobello was claimed by Arizona on Feb. 11, one day after being waived by the Penguins. He became the first NHL player to dress for four different teams in one season since Dave McLlwain, who played for the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs in 1991-92. According to HockeyDB.com, defenseman Dennis O'Brien is the only other NHL player to skate with four teams in one season.

It's a unique distinction that has earned Arcobello plenty of respect in the Coyotes locker room.

"This type of personality that he has and the character that comes along with him is so remarkable," said Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who has played each of his 19 seasons and 1,383 NHL games with the same franchise (although that did involve a move from Winnipeg to Arizona). "He's been legit. It takes a big heart to do that."

But it isn't Arcobello's frequent-flyer status that has most impressed the Coyotes. Handed a larger role on a rebuilding team, he scored five goals in his first seven games with the club. The performance earned him the Coyotes' player of the month award for February, no small feat considering he wasn't on the team for the first half of the month.

Having recently discovered some on-ice chemistry with rookie Tobias Rieder, Arcobello is making his pitch for a spot with the team before he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

"He understands what his assets are and how to make them effective in a game, so when he gets opportunities he knows he has to capitalize on them," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. "I give him credit. He's a smart player who understands the situation he's in and tries to play accordingly."

Following a hectic several weeks, Arcobello has finally started to settle into his Arizona surroundings. He's found a perfect roommate in Gagner, a former Edmonton teammate who last summer was traded twice in a matter of hours. And in a tumultuous season, he's content to focus on the positives, which include new career highs in games played, goals and points.

"I just passed the 100 mark in games. That was a goal of mine. I think with anything it's just experience, it goes a long way. You can't really rush that. I think I've come a long way in knowing myself as a player and knowing what it takes to stay here," he said. "I didn't expect this to happen, it's unlike anything I've been a part of. But I think it's also a good experience for me. I think it will help me in my career. Not only in hockey, but life in general. Just being able to adapt. Even socially, getting to know new people all the time. This year has been real good for that."