Gregory Campbell believes he’s ready to make an impact.
On and off the ice.
The gritty left winger, fresh from helping to run his family’s hockey camp outside Toronto, is in South Florida to serve as one of the instructors at the Panthers’ second annual NHL Development Camp July 23-27 at incredibleICE in Coral Springs.
“The camps are always a lot of fun,” said Campbell, 23, who will be joined by other Panther players and alumni including Stephen Weiss
and assistant coach Pierre Groulx. “What we try to do is talk to the kids and show them some things. There’s so much competition today, some parents are so driven, that sometimes we can lose site of kids just having fun. We want to make sure they’re learning but also want to send them home with a smile on their face.”
Campbell, who enters his third season with the Panthers after being drafted by the team in the fourth round (67th overall) of the 2002 Entry Draft, has gained a reputation as an excellent penalty killer and fourth-line winger who isn’t afraid to fight along the boards or in the corners.
But he also admits he’s looking at the 2007-08 season as a key one in his development. Playing mostly on the fourth line last season, Campbell played in 79 games and scored a career-high six goals. But Campbell, usually one of the last players to leave the practice ice, wants to further contribute.
“It’s a big challenge for me,” he said. “I’m at a stage where, while I’m still a young guy and still have a lot to learn, hopefully, I want to make a bigger impact. I consider it a privilege being a Panther and I want to be part of this team. I took on a bigger role last year with penalty killing and being a role player, but I want to contribute in a bigger way.”
Campbell, who played with several different linemates throughout the season and whose playing time varied depending on game circumstances, said he has to be ready no matter what the situation.
“I really have to be versatile and play in any situation,” he said. “It’s not always easy but I look forward to those challenges. I don’t want to use anything as an excuse. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing with Olli (Jokinen) and Nathan (Horton) or a couple kids getting their first opportunity in the NHL. When (GM/coach) Jacques (Martin) wants me to be ready then I have to bring my game for the team.”
Campbell echoed the sentiments of other Panthers who believe the team has gotten stronger over the off-season due to off-season acquisitions by Martin and assistant general manager Randy Sexton. But he also believes the core group of Panthers are ready to take a giant step forward.
“I think we’ve learned from the past,” Campbell said. “A few guys have been with the team now awhile and, hopefully, this is the year we’re going to rectify what we haven’t done in the past. No one was satisfied with the outcome of last season. But Jacques and his staff are smart people who have built winners in the past. I know they did a lot of work nailing down key players in the organization and making sure they’re with us for a while.”
The NHL Development Camp, limited to 60 players, is for players hoping to advance their hockey careers with focus on intense drills and team scenarios. The camp will run from 9 a.m., to 4 p.m., each day.
The Development Camp will be the last of three camps held by the Panthers in July. More than 50 players participated in the Fundamental Hockey School run by Panther defenseman Mike Van Ryn and more than 40 children participated last week in the Rob Tallas Goalie School.