Archibald had all the tools to be an above average NHL player. He was a tremendous skater, with exceptional balance and agility, though lacked breakaway speed. He was a masterful puckhandler. He enjoyed playmaking almost to a fault, choosing to pass often, and not using his excellent wrist shot as often as he probably should have. He had good NHL size, and although he was definetly not a physical player, he was not afraid to take hits or to play in traffic.
Dave played three years of major junior hockey with the WHL's Portland Winter Hawks. He however didn't dominate the league until his draft season of 1986-87. He electrified crowds that year with 50 goals and 107 points in 65 games plus another 28 points in 20 playoff games. His strong season earned him high praise from NHL scouts who touted him as a sure bet NHLer. The Minnesota North Stars selected Archibald 6th overall in the 1987 Entry Draft. The next center selected in that draft was future NHL star Joe Sakic.
Instead of allowing Archibald to continue to develop his game at the junior level for at least another year, the lowly North Stars opted to keep the mature-beyond-his-years forward in the bigs. His first two seasons weren't too bad considering he was used primarily as a powerplay specialist who saw little ice time at even strength, especially late in a close game. He scored 13 goals and 33 points in 1987-88 and 14 goals and 33 points in 1988-89.
Now remember the kid was only 20 years old by the time he finished his second full NHL season. Then when Dave showed little progress in the following training camp and early part of his third campaign, the North Stars gave up on him, expecting more from a third year player. This despite giving him little chance to succeed, and despite still not reaching his 21st birthday.
Archibald was moved to the New York Rangers on November 1, 1989 in exchange for Jayson More. After scoring just 2 goals and 5 points in 19 games with the Rangers, Dave was demoted to Flint of the IHL. It was probably the best thing for Dave, as he would get his first chance in 3 years to play regularly. He responded well by scoring 52 points in 41 games with the Spirits.
Despite his improved play at the minor league level, Dave wasn't happy with his experience in pro hockey. He and the Rangers agreed to make arrangements that would see Dave play the 1990-91 season with the Canadian national team. Dave played well, scoring 19 goals and 31 points in 29 games, before having a quiet 1991 World Championships. He scored just 1 assist in 10 games, although he played very rarely as non-playoff bound NHLers comprised most of the Team Canada roster.
Dave thoroughly enjoyed his time with the National team program, and definitely wanted to return the following season and be a part of the 1992 Olympics. Archibald was an offensive leader with the Nats during their regular season, scoring 63 points in 58 games. He also added a very strong 7 goals in 8 Olympic contests as Canada won the Silver medal. Also on that team was disgruntled NHL goalie Sean Burke, NHL veterans Dave Tippett and Dave Hannan, and future NHL stars Jason Woolley, Joey Juneau and Eric Lindros.
After such a strong showing in 1991-92 season, Dave decided to give the NHL a shot again. He resigned with the Rangers, but was demoted to the farm team to start the season. He was off to a strong start in the AHL with 6 goals and 9 points in 8 games, but then the Rangers traded "Archie" to the Ottawa Senators.
Dave spent most of the following the 4 seasons with the Senators, reinventing himself as a defensive checker under head coach Rick Bowness. Dave did an unheralded and reasonable job in Ottawa, even though the Sens were perhaps the worst team in hockey much of his stay there. However injuries took their toll on Dave's body, slowing down the enthusiastic Archibald.
Dave followed Bowness to the New York Islanders for the 1996-97 season, but he only played in 7 scoreless NHL games before being released to play in Germany. Dave would play in Europe and in the North American minor leagues following his NHL days.