Patience key as Jack Campbell builds toward NHL career

Listen to Stars goaltending prospect Jack Campbell talk and you hear a lot about patience these days. Learning to be patient in his game and to be patient in getting to where he wants to be.

Campbell, the Stars’ first round pick (11th overall) in 2010, is coming off his first season of major junior hockey. It didn’t begin the way he was hoping.

“It was a pretty rough start, coming from pro camp and having real high expectations of myself and the team,” Campbell said. “It taught me that you’ve got to live in the moment. You can’t get too caught up in where you want to be because that’s not always going to end up how you write it down.”

But Campbell, who was 2-5-0 after his first eight starts, got better as things moved along, had a strong second half and helped the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League make it to the league finals.

“I’ve learned a lot. The first eight games was a rough stretch, but after that I thought I settled down and had a real good playoff run,” he said. “Now, I feel like I am ready to take that next step.”

But his game is still a work in progress, he said, and getting to the next level – the pro level – is going to require patience in the way he plays.

“The biggest thing for myself is slowing my game down and being more patient,” Campbell said. “You look at NHL guys, obviously they have quickness and size – hopefully things I can portray one day in the NHL – but I have to try to slow everything down and feel a little bit more calm in the net.”

Campbell, who is one of several Dallas prospects current skating at the team’s development camp in McKinney, would love nothing more than to come into training camp in September and show that’s ready to take the next step and earn a spot in the ECHL or AHL. But he’s ready to let things play out and strive to be his best where ever he ends up. Chances are that is going to be another year in the OHL because the Stars are going to be patient with the young goaltender.

“That’s what you love about him. He’s a passionate kid that loves to play and wants to get to the NHL,” said Les Jackson, Dallas Stars Director of Scouting and Player Development. “Like all those guys, they want to get there today but the timetable says it’s a little later. I think in the ideal world, we’ll bring him to camp and he’ll probably end up back in Windsor. That’s the natural progression. He’ll get a lot of games there and a lot of experience and we’ll see a year down the road from there.”

The Stars like how Campbell is progressing and what he did in his first season in the Canadian Hockey League, which includes the OHL, WHL and QMJHL. It’s was a big jump for the 19-year-old and the Stars believe he learned some hard, but valuable lessons..

“Campbell is an amazing prospect. Going to the Canadian Hockey League was the best experience for him,” said Jackson. “Traditionally what happens with a lot of the American kids that go in is that the Canadian League is a challenge for them. It’s a tough league and there’s a lot of competition. He went through that adversity and he showed at the World Junior his caliber.”

Campbell was superb for Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, leading his team to a bronze medal with a 5-1 record, 1.70 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. His performance earned him the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper award.

That showing at the World Juniors helped propel him to a strong second half of the season in the OHL. He went 12-4-4 over his final 20 decisions to end the season with a 24-14-4 record, 3.80 goals against average and a .884 save percentage. He was 9-9 in the playoffs with a 3.74 GAA and .887 save percentage. The goals against numbers may seem high and the save percentage a bit low, but the OHL is an offensive league.

“The key thing is he finished off really strong and was arguably one of their MVP’s in the playoffs,” said Stars goaltending coach Mike Valley. “That should give him a lot of confidence and help continue to build that foundation that we’re building for him.”

Campbell was hard at work prior to development camp getting ready for the 2011-12 campaign.

“I’ve put on 18 pounds trying to get ready for the next season,” Campbell said. “Size, strength, quickness and flexibility I’ve been hitting hard. I think you’ll see a big difference in my game this upcoming season.”

The Stars like Campbell’s work ethic and his commitment to improve. But there’s one attribute that the Stars believe will help propel him to the NHL.

“He’s one of the most highly competitive players, not just goaltenders, but players that we’ve seen,” said Valley. “He battles so hard every single day that he is in that crease. It doesn’t matter if it is development camp or the playoffs or any time of the year, when he gets in the net he wants to stop every single puck. That’s a trait that is so important to have, and ultimately that’s the trait that’s going to make him into a top NHL goaltender.”

Stars development camp

There were no on-ice activities at Dallas Stars development camp on Monday. The team focused on team building activities. The team will resume on-ice sessions Tuesday at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney. The first session runs from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. The afternoon session runs from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. All on-ice sessions are open to the public.