Jack Campbell is unflappable. It’s kinda his thing. He’s currently attending his third Dallas Stars development camp and despite the fact he and fellow goaltenders Tyler Beskorowany and Christopher Nihlstorp have a different regimen from the rest of the skaters, he’s more than happy to bring some leadership to the newbies.
“It’s good to know what to expect,” he said. “I can show them how hard they need to work and what the organization expects out of us.”
The 11th pick overall in 2010, Campbell’s plot arc starts with a comet trail. At the world juniors that year, he famously came into the net for Team USA in the third period of a crushingly tense see-saw battle with Canada and shut the door, allowing future Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson to send the Stars and Stripes into elation with an overtime goal to earn the gold medal. Campbell was the consensus No. 1 netminder in the draft by unanimous sentiment, but going so high added a layer of pressure nonetheless.
Campbell turned down the University of Michigan and suited up across the border for the Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires, where the post-Taylor Hall crew maintained its elite status, even if Campbell’s 3.80 goals-against average was a full goal or two more than most expected. During his second season in the OHL, he was dealt by the reloading Spits to Sault Ste. Marie, which gave up an incredible six draft picks plus Mackenzie Braid and the rights to Patrick Sieloff (who joins Windsor from Campbell’s former national team development squad next season). Unfortunately, the Greyhounds couldn’t make their way into the playoffs and Campbell’s GAA was only slightly better at 3.58.
“It was a frustrating couple years,” he said. “But that doesn’t discredit my teammates. I have unrealistic expectations for myself. I wanted to go out and get a shutout every night and obviously that wasn’t going to happen.”
On the international stage, he continued to shine, however. He followed up his 2010 world junior gold with a bronze the next year and wasn’t in net when the 2012 WJC edition of Team USA fell apart in Alberta (Anaheim prospect John Gibson suffered that fate in an ill-timed loss to Finland that sent the team into a death spiral), performing well when he was in the crease.
The fact Sault Ste. Marie missed the post-season was actually a blessing in disguise, as Campbell decamped for the American League’s Texas Stars and got in 12 games of service, putting up a respectable .912 save percentage in the process.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I had been waiting for that day for two years.”
Next season, he’ll likely battle Beskorowany and Nihlstorp for the starter’s job in Austin, where his coach will be former Dallas assistant Willie Desjardins. Campbell’s new boss got a sneak peak last season and likes what he saw in the 20-year-old.
“You can see how competitive he is,” Desjardins said. “Jack wants it so bad.”
Now the key is hammering down the technique. Fortunately, Campbell is not averse to doing his homework in the video suite. He’s a much different ’tender than the young lion who emerged at the world juniors in 2010.
“I was really scrambly then,” he said. “I played off my athletic ability. Now I’m under control. I use my size more to my advantage. If you watch film of when Marc-Andre Fleury first came up, he was so quick, he actually had to slow it down to become a great goalie.”
Along with Pittsburgh’s Fleury, Campbell has been following a more recent Stanley Cup winner, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick. In Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen, he also has a big-bodied role model and someone to look up to at the Dallas main camp.
“Kari’s an unbelievable goalie and so much fun to watch,” Campbell said. “I’m anxious to get back on the ice with him.”
Fans in Texas are likely saying the same thing about seeing Campbell.
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