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First-rounder Campbell has sights set on NHL

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

It’s somewhat ironic that just as goaltender Marty Turco leaves the Dallas Stars organization as a free agent, the highly-touted netminder the club chose in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to be his eventual replacement less than two weeks ago turns out to have grown up idolizing the longtime Star.

Campbell Draft Gallery

Jack Campbell, selected with the 11th overall pick on June 25, revealed he’d always admired Turco’s athleticism on the ice, his ability to handle the puck, and even his generous charitable work in the community. And while Campbell won’t get to be his teammate, he will get an opportunity to follow in his footsteps over the next few years.

Campbell, 18, who posted a 6-3-1 record with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage for the U.S. National Team Development Program last season, will be joining the two-time defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires for 2010-11, the top team in Canadian junior hockey. After that, it seems like just a matter of time before he ends up in Dallas.

Participating in the Stars’ annual Development Camp this past week at the club’s practice facility at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, Campbell was thrilled to get his first taste of what it means to be part of the Dallas Stars family.

“Growing up being a Marty Turco fan and watching Dallas my whole life, I really couldn’t ask for a better situation,” said Campbell, whose performance for Team USA in the World Junior Championships gold medal game last January is the stuff of legends. “It’s great to get to know the players and the coaches and the staff and also to taking that next step towards my goal of making the NHL. I’ve been working with (Stars goaltending coach) Mike Valley here every day, so it’s  going to be great for my development.”

While conventional wisdom usually dictates that even highly-drafted goaltenders need at least a couple of seasons to develop before they’re ready for the big time, Campbell looks like he might be able to speed that timeline up a bit.

“He’s on fast-forward - we’ll send him to Windsor and we’ll see where he goes next year,” said Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development Les Jackson. “We think this kid, he’s going to have to go through his lessons, but he’s on the fast curve.”

Displaying an impressive blend of humility, wide-eyed excitement and supreme self-confidence, Campbell himself is determined to occupy the Dallas crease in the not-so-distant future.

“I’m ready to take on that challenge,” Campbell said of working his way up to the NHL. “Whenever Dallas wants to give me that opportunity - I know I have a lot of work to do, but I’m just working hard every single day and trying to take as much in as I can on a day-by-day basis and who knows if the day will come sooner than most people think?”

That confidence will serve him well next year in Windsor, where the spotlight will be on him and the team as they shoot for an unprecedented third straight Memorial Cup. Playing for a team run by former NHLer Warren Rychel (General Manager), and until this week, Bob Boughner, who just left as head coach to join the Columbus Blue Jackets as an assistant, it’s a situation Campbell relishes.

“Yeah, a lot of pressure - they expect to win, but I expect to win,” said Campbell, who also took home gold with Team USA at the U18 World Championships in each of the past two seasons. “My biggest critic is myself. Going to Windsor’s going to be great for my development, playing a lot of games next season, and playing behind some great coaches. Mr. Rychel and Coach Boughner there, they’re two great resources to have. They’ve both won Stanley Cups, and I’ll have great teammates there as well and I’m really looking forward to playing with those guys. The team is going to give it everything we have to bring home a third straight one.”

“You couldn’t ask for a better setting,” Jackson added, “with him going to a team that’s had a lot of success, in a great market, and the guys that run the team, Bob Boughner and Warren Rychel, have done a great job, so I think this is a win-win for Jack and for us. We just have to be patient with him, let him learn his lessons, but he’ll be the goaltender for the U.S. World Junior team (again next year), so that’s going to be a great situation, and it’s going to be in Buffalo. He’s a real pro individual. I suspect he’s going to have some success.”

As Jackson noted, Campbell will have quite a few opportunities to build on his big-game success, both at Windsor and at next year’s World Juniors. With the tournament on U.S. soil this time, the defending champs will have their hands full fending off a Canadian team bent on revenge for what happened this past January in Saskatoon. Campbell came off the bench in the championship game after Canada jumped out to a 3-0 lead and stopped 32 of 34 shots to help propel the U.S. to a 6-5 overtime triumph that ended Canada’s five-year reign at the event.

“It’s just another level, just another step towards my goal of being an NHL hockey player,” shrugged the 6-foot-3, 175-pound native of Port Huron, MI. “The international play really helped me, the big games and learning how to deal with pressure that way, and I believe I can help bring that to this team in the near future.”

Interestingly, Campbell was all set to mimic Turco’s path to the NHL by attending the University of Michigan, but after his tremendous improvement over the past two years at the U.S. NTDP, he decided his career would be better served by heading off to Canada instead. One major difference between the two options is that Canadian junior hockey helps better prepare players for the pro lifestyle, with 3-4 games a week and frequent travel, while college focuses far more on practicing during weekdays and has games just on weekends.

“I had verbally committed to the University of Michigan and I wanted to go there,” Campbell explained, “but as my development accelerated at the NTDP with my goalie coach there, Joe Exter - he did a fantastic job with me, getting me to that next level - I just feel like playing 60 games next season and an NHL-type playoff schedule in the OHL just fits my goals of reaching the NHL sooner.” 
Based on the progress he’s shown over the last year or two, that just might happen sooner than most people expect. In the meantime, Campbell is just trying to absorb as much as he can at the Development Camp, get acquainted with his future teammates, and prepare himself for another successful season.

“The coaches are definitely giving the goalies a lot of action and I couldn’t ask for much more than that,” Campbell said. “There’s definitely a lot of high-end players out here that have tremendous futures within the organization and to be a part of this camp, to learn from those guys, it’s great and I’m going to take it all in.”

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