TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- It isn't easy playing the waiting game as a goalie with high expectations chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft.
It appears Dallas Stars prospect and 2010 first-round pick Jack Campbell has finally come to grips with his situation and is at peace with where he is and where he wants to be in his development within the organization. It's a recipe for success for any young goalie aspiring to one day reach the NHL.
"If you were to ask me when I was 18 and drafted [No. 11], when I thought I would be playing in the NHL, I would have thought I would have been able to make it by now for sure," Campbell told NHL.com at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament being held this week.
Campbell isn't alone. The mindset he had is probably the same as a majority of young drafted goalies, but the 21-year-old has since changed his outlook for the better.
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"I know it's all about growing up," Campbell said. "Even if I did dominate the last three years, I probably still wouldn't be out there because it's all about the process of maturing a goalie and not rushing him … I get that now. I'm just trying to be the best goalie I can be, wherever that may be. I just want to play a lot of hockey this year and wherever that is, I'm ready to succeed."
Campbell began his professional career last season in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars. It was a successful transition; the 6-foot-3, 184-pound left-hander finished 19-13-3 with a 2.65 goals-against average, .905 save percentage and two shutouts.
His most avid supporter and perhaps biggest critic the past four years has been Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley.
"For any goaltender drafted at 18, you're excited to get to the NHL as quick as you can," Valley told NHL.com. "But the one thing you quickly realize is it takes time and it's a process. I think most goalies playing in the NHL today broke in at an average age of 24.8, so it's a process.
"For Jack, the journey after being drafted [in 2010] has been filled with a lot of ups and several downs."
Campbell was considered by many the top player at his position entering the 2010 draft, and the Stars backed that projection. He had an outstanding international career with USA Hockey, winning multiple medals at the World Under-18 Championship and World Junior Championship.
"You want to see him do well," said Kurt Kleinendorst, coach of the Iowa Wild in the AHL who coached Campbell on the U-18 team. "From all my experiences as a coach, he was one of my favorite people. He was probably the top goaltender of his age class, and we don't win a gold medal without Jack. But it just goes to show you how difficult it is; pro hockey is a completely different beast, but I'm sure he's going to conquer it."
Campbell did struggle a bit in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, never finishing below a 3.13 GAA or higher than a .906 save percentage in either of his two Canadian Hockey League seasons.
"One of the things he's had to learn is how to gain emotional control, meaning you can't let yourself get too high or too low," Valley said. "There's a sweet spot right in the middle, and that's why it takes so much experience to finally play at the highest level, because it's about controlling your emotions in every situation, not only on the ice but off of it."
Campbell acknowledges he has found that balance in his life.
"The thing is, as soon as he got rattled, that bled into the technical part of his game as well, so now he's moving too much or starts chasing the play," Valley said. "It's finding that balance. For him to gain that and learn how to control his emotions has definitely helped him.
"Before, he would concern himself with things that happened in the past and he worried about the future, but those things are irrelevant because the past is gone and the future doesn't exist. The only thing you have is the now, and he's learned that."
Valley said he feels that earning time in the AHL was a key for Campbell. Stars assistant general manager Les Jackson told NHL.com the best thing for Campbell would be to continue his development in the AHL in 2013-14.
"He has to challenge to take that starting job [in Texas], and I would say the steps he's made from last year to this year have been tremendous," Jackson said. "If he can take those same steps going forward, then he'll set himself up for the future. If you look at the history of goaltending, few make it right away, so we have to be patient with him."
Campbell, who started playing tennis this summer because it allowed him another outlet to compete, work on reflexes and maintain focus, knows time is on his side.
"My goal this year is to play hockey and I'm just excited and want to play the best I can," Campbell said. "I think, after that, all the other goals I have written down will take care of themselves."