"He's got good size, doesn't beat himself, his positioning is very good, great butterfly style -- a blocking-style goalie. Good quickness in recovery, but he's not all over the place. He'll make the saves." -- Central Scouting's Al Jensen on Jack Campbell
"I actually got talked out of playing goalie by one of my coaches, my uncle and my dad, but I just stormed out of the meeting and said I was going to be a goalie and I'm glad I did," Campbell told NHL.com. He was 7-years-old at the time.
"I just always wanted to be a goalie," he said. "I played out a few years, but my passion was always stopping pucks."
It seems like he's made the right call, as it's earned him a spot with the U.S. National Team Development Program, a gold medal at last spring's World Under-18 Championship, and probably a spot on the U.S. team for the 2010 World Junior Championship.
Campbell also is the top-ranked goalie in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings of the top draft-eligible USHL players (the USNTDP plays some games in the league).
"The one thing that has really impressed me is the fact I've never seen a goalie his age, even on the AHL level, who handles the puck as responsibly as he does," U-18 coach Kurt Kleinendorst told NHL.com. "He just has a feel for the game. He's no Marty Brodeur, mind you, but he makes decisions with the puck that'll never hurt the team."
Campbell was the youngest player at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in August at Lake Placid, N.Y., but wasn't at all awed by his surroundings. In his one start against a Russia team stocked with players competing for spots on their country's WJC team, he stopped 24 of 25 shots -- including everything thrown at him in three five-on-three Russia power plays -- in a 6-1 victory.
"It definitely gave me confidence I can play against older players and there's really nothing that I feel I can't go up against right now," said Campbell. "I have a lot of work to do to have success, but right now I'm pretty confident going into this camp and next season."
He has reason to be confident, as NHL talent scouts will be taking long looks at him.
"He's a good-size goalie that plays big in the net," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He's your typical butterfly-style goalie, but he keeps his body upright, which is still covering a lot of the net. His angles are good and he's always square to the shooter. His movements are very controlled. He has good quickness in his reactions and recoveries. He's a little bit of a laid-back type of goalie so he doesn't beat himself. He's got a good glove hand.
"He's got good size, doesn't beat himself, his positioning is very good, great butterfly style -- a blocking-style goalie. Good quickness in recovery, but he's not all over the place. He'll make the saves."
In 11 games against a combination of college and USHL competition with the USNTDP U-18 team, Campbell is 6-4-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. He also helped the U.S. win gold at the Under-18 Four Nations Cup earlier this month, stopping 18 of 19 shots in his only game, a 4-1 win against host Finland.
With the 2010 Entry Draft getting closer by the day, Campbell knows the pressure is on, but he said he won't let any draft worries get to him.
"I just focus on what I have to do and everything else will take care of itself," he said.
If his previous experience is any precursor, he should do fine in pressure situations. After starting as the backup, Campbell replaced Adam Murray in goal for the U.S. at April's World Under-18 Championship, and he went 6-1 with a 0.75 GAA and two shutouts. He was in the net when the U.S. beat Russia to win the gold, and he was named to the tournament's all-star team.
"Jack's just a phenomenal competitor, and he hates to lose more than anybody I've seen in my life," Windsor Spitfires defenseman Cam Fowler, a teammate on the U-18 team, told NHL.com. "He's going to battle for every shot and every save he has to make. When he got called up for us to Worlds, coming into the quarterfinals, Campbell had to step in and he was phenomenal."
He tried to keep those good feelings going at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in August in Lake Placid. Campbell was one of four goalies to survive the first round of cuts, and then took advantage of his ice time.
U.S. coach Dean Blais said Campbell "was outstanding" in his game against Russia.
"We won 6-1 but the turning point in that game for us was killing those five-on-threes and Jack had two saves I can remember that were outstanding," Blais told NHL.com. "He would square up to the puck and control the rebounds."
Campbell is trying to take all the praise in stride.
"Going into the season I'm just trying to get better each day and hopefully I can keep doing better and help my team win," he said.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com