During Dallas’ recent development camp in Frisco, Smith recalled the first time he and Campbell practiced together with the Texas Stars late last season.
“He was counting his save percentage in his head, and I said, ‘Come on, Jack,’ and he’s like, ‘I have a .892 today, I’m looking for a .923 tomorrow,’” Smith said. “His work ethic, his compete level, you want to go against him in practice because as a goal scorer he’ll make you better. He’s going to challenge you. The kid will play six rebounds until the puck is in the net, he covers it or it is in the corner. He won’t stop.”
That competitiveness is one of Campbell’s great strengths but the young goaltender has learned that he needs to strike a balance, making sure that the desire to compete doesn’t lead to being too aggressive and overplaying things in the net.
“When I was 18 or 19 I had a lot of confidence, but I didn’t know how to slow my game down and now that I’ve struggled a little bit, it was an eye-opener,” Campbell said. “I’ve played sports my whole life – football and baseball – and I’ve been taught to go 100 miles an hour, where in goaltending you have to slow it down and go 50 or 75 miles an hour. It’s a lot different and it’s a big adjustment, but I am starting to get it.”
Those who watch Campbell closely have noticed the difference in the 20-year-old Michigan native, Dallas’ first round pick (11th overall) in 2010.
“He’s beginning to mature as a goaltender,” said Dallas Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley. “When he first got here he would overplay things in the net and now he’s starting to slow down his game. It’s been a process, but it is really coming.”
And it’s coming at the right time for Campbell, who will embark on his first full professional season in 2012-13. He got a brief taste of the professional life late last season when he joined the Texas Stars of the AHL on amateur tryout contract after his junior career ended. He played 12 games, posting a 4-7-0 record, 3.02 goals against average and .912 save percentage. The numbers don’t jump out at you, but numbers don’t always tell the whole story.
“Jack really embraced the opportunity in Texas,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Player Personnel. “In 90 percent of the games he played he was outstanding,”
“Huge. Huge to get 12 games, especially coming off the OHL career,” said Valley. “He played a lot in the OHL, but it was always a challenge. He saw a lot of pucks. It was huge not only for his development, but more for his confidence to understand that I can play at this level, and that I can be really good at this level. For him to get 12 games it puts him in a state where now he knows he can carry on where he left off. It’s a big confidence booster for him.”
It was a big boost for a guy who was coming off a two-year career in the Ontario Hockey League where he had seen his share of ups and downs. He had a 45-29-11 record, 3.62 goals against average and a .892 save percentage in 91 games with Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie.
“I’d rather have the ups and downs in junior. It’s made me more mentally tough,” Campbell said. “(The experience in Texas) turned my whole year around. Ever since I was drafted by Dallas I’ve been waiting for a chance to play for the organization. I developed some great relationships with the players and fans, and was able to relax, go out there, play well and play the way they want me to play.”
Campbell was a big hit with Texas fans, who saw him stop 30 shots for his first pro shutout on March 31 in a game against Lake Erie.
“It was awesome. To do it in front of the fans, who are unbelievable, was pretty cool,” Campbell said. “It was one of the most memorable games of my career.”
Campbell was among the Dallas prospects at the recent development camp and one thing that stood out about the goaltender was that he looked a little taller. It was something that he was more than happy to confirm.
“I am, actually. I gained two inches in five months,” he said. “I’ve never gotten over the 6-2 hump, but I am 6-4 today.”
He’s been hard at work in the gym, and has bulked up as well. He said he now weighs 200 pounds, up 15 pounds from last season.
“I’m working,” he said. “But I’ve got a ways to go.”
And saying he has a ways to go is another sign of maturity for Campbell, who at times could be a little bit impatient when it came to his development. It’s that Campbell competitive zeal, which is also one of his big strengths.
“You don’t have to lead him to work because he is always waiting for you to show up. He’s an all-in type of player,” said Jackson. “He’s maturing, getting bigger and stronger. He’s figuring out that you just don’t go from the draft to the NHL, and that you’ve got to take a few steps to get to that spot.”
And Campbell, who is expected to play with Texas again this season, is OK with that. He just wants to help whatever team he plays with have success.
“I don’t have any specific goals this season other than to win a championship with whatever team I play for, whether it’s in Austin winning that Calder Cup or helping the Dallas Stars win a Stanley Cup,” he said. “I am not focused on what team I play for, I just want to prepare the best I can, work as hard as I can and then come into camp and see what happens.”