|Chris Campoli |
If you didn't watch Thursday's 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals, then you may have missed the emergence of a new star on the Islanders blueline. Chris Campoli didn't just put up four assists – a career-high – he was also strong defensively, blocking two shots and delivering a hit.
"Chris was everywhere last night," said Ted Nolan after practice today. "He'd rush the puck up and then be the first one back. He had a great game."
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL draft, Campoli showed Islanders fans his potential in his rookie season when he recorded nine goals and 25 assists in 80 games, playing on a young squad in 2005-06. But last season, Campoli was hampered with an injury that kept him out of the lineup for nearly 30 games, limiting his ice time and his point total to 14.
This season, equipped with a new three-year contract, Campoli has been re-energized in the early going of the season.
The 23-year old Campoli is tied for second in the NHL among defensemen with two goals. His four assists last night catapulted him into a third place tie among the league's defensemen with six points.
When asked if coach Nolan told him to be more aggressive this season, Campoli replied: "It's just me playing my game and recognizing the opportunities to jump into the play. I don't think I'm jumping into the play anymore often than I did last year or the year before. When opportunities come I just want to take advantage of them."
Even with a number of highly skilled defensemen on the Islanders, Campoli has seen his fair share of power play time. In fact, Campoli leads the team in power play time. Four of Campoli's points have come on the power play, including three assists last night.
But Campoli isn't just showing up on the offensive side of the game, he has been a force on the blueline. The Ontario native ranks second on the team with 15 hits and tied for third with four takeaways.
"My role has changed this year," said Campoli. "I'm playing more and with more confidence. All that matters is that we keep winning, and I do what I can to contribute."
Campoli has shown flashes of brilliance and proved that even a player drafted in the seventh round can make a difference in the NHL. At only 23, so there's no knowing how much better he can get.