Way back in June's NHL Entry Draft, the Stars found themselves sitting at the eleventh overall pick with two highly touted defensive prospects still on the board. While many fans were convinced that Cam Fowler or Brandon Gormley would be the newest Dallas Star, Joe Nieuwendyk and company had their eyes on the 18-year-old goaltender out of Port Huron, Michigan, who had just backstopped the USA juniors team to a gold medal. And so Jack Campbell became a Dallas Star.
While the move was initially met with some skepticism by fans, Campbell has done his part in convincing many that he was the right pick after all. He impressed during Stars training camp, and rebounded after a tough start to his season with the Windsor Spitfires, and was by far the best goalie again during the World Junior Championships last month.
Defending Big D recently had the opportunity to talk with Jack Campbell. Thanks to the Windsor Spitfires and specifically Rob Gagnon and Derek Zona for helping set up this interview.
Interview after the jump....
First off, congratulations on the bronze medal win in the World Junior Championships. You seemed really poised in net during this tournament. How much of that comes from last year's tourney, and how much of it comes from your newfound experience in junior hockey?
I think the one thing you really can't get taught is experience. So obviously playing last year really helped me get comfortable with that environment, especially against Canada. And also, just helping my teammates the best I could whether it was trying to prepare them for the games. That's what we had this year, was eight great leaders who returned from last year's team. It was great to play here in Windsor so far. I've been facing a lot of great scoring chances that I haven't seen in my whole entire hockey career so it's really helped me with that and not only whatever it might be that I have to face. I'm confident in my own abilities,
From the TV side, it sure seemed like Canada fans had invaded Buffalo. From that standpoint, what was the biggest difference between playing in Buffalo and playing in Saskatoon last year?
It's obviously great to play at home and get the Buffalo Sabres' locker room and get treated first-class because we were the host team. But at least going into Saskatoon we knew what we were up against as far as the fans. And you know, we really didn't face those types of fans in Saskatoon other than when we played Canada. In Buffalo, the (Canadian) fans were at every single game. Whether we were playing Germany or Finland, they were there rooting for the other team. And they really did take a lot of our home soil advantage out of the equation. But then again, against Sweden, they don't really particularly care for those guys. So they were rooting for us, which was actually pretty cool.
Let's talk about your young career in junior hockey. Your season with the Spitfires got off to a rough start. What was behind that?
I just think the biggest thing was the adjustment from playing pro this summer with Dallas and coming back to juniors and seeing a lot of scoring chances I haven't seen my whole career. I played in the USHL last year, but our defense limited the opposition to probably five scoring chances a game. So no discredit to my team here in Windsor, it's just the nature of the league. You're going to see fifteen to thirty high quality chances per game. And it just kind of hit me by surprise. And to be honest, I'm still kind of adjusting to it. But thankfully I have great coaches and teammates here, and they've been supportive the whole way.
There was a lot of talk about how Windsor brought in a sports psychologist to help you through that rough stretch. Could you explain a bit more about that?
(They brought him in) just to talk about things, because to be honest, I had never gone through a down period in my whole career. I might've had a bad game once every three years or so, or once a year. So the first seven games of the year was a real struggle, and that's why my numbers are where they are right now. I've made huge strides since, personally. But he just got me back on that right track, kind of wanted to see how I was feeling. But it was nothing serious.
The midterm draft rankings just came out recently, and U.S. National Development team goalie John Gibson is the top-ranked North American goaltender. You're also a U.S. National Development team product. What does that say about that program, to have two consecutive years with two top prospects?
I just think that's the credit to the goalie coach there, Joe Exter. He's done a phenomenal job, not only with me but with John (Gibson) and other goalies who have gone through the program. You know, John's a real good goalie and I can see him going really high in the draft. I think the biggest thing is just Joe Exter. I know for a fact that he's going to be an NHL goaltending coach within the next year or two. I can credit a lot of people for where that team has gone, but I think the biggest impact has been Joe Exter.
You mentioned during the draft that Dallas was one of your favorite teams growing up. Why was that?
It was one of my two favorite teams growing up. One was Detroit obviously just because I'm from the area, and the other was Dallas because I love Marty Turco. I heard all about how he went to Michigan and what he did there, and I started to follow him and really study his game. I can't say that I play just like Marty because he's just so athletic and it'd be impossible to mimic what he does. But I try to take different things of what he does, like his puckhandling and athleticism. But more importantly, how he handles himself off the ice. So that was a big reason why I was a Dallas Stars fan. I haven't told the press this, but Mike Modano was always my favorite player growing up. I wasn't a goalie until I turned eight years old, so watching Mike Modano was how I got exposed to Dallas. And when the draft came around, and I saw I might have had a chance to go there it was pretty cool.
Immediately after you were drafted, there were some fans that were surprised that the Stars had passed on top defensemen to take you. You're also the highest goalie drafted in some time. Does all of that kind of give you a chip on your shoulder, that you already have a few doubters and expectations to tackle?
To be honest, the draft is kind of out of your control. I did everything I could during my draft year to try and go as high as possible, and I was fortunate to get drafted by Dallas right away. As far as the chip on my shoulder, I try to let my play on the ice do the talking. It's real good feeling to go ahead of some really good hockey players. Cam Fowler is playing in the NHL, but more importantly, that gives me more motivation to get there as soon as I can.
What was the training camp experience like?
It wasn't exactly what I expected, I was kind of hoping I'd get the call to play a game or go to training camp with the big guys. But it was still great, still a lot of fun. We worked a lot with Stu Barnes and Mike Valley, and I got to work out with a lot of the NHL guys and get to know them. It really got me prepared for what I'll face down the road.
Have the Stars kept in contact with you since the draft?
I'm actually pretty fortunate to have Dallas, such a great organization as far as personalities and first-class people they are. Whether it's business talk or just trying to catch up, they've done a great job. Mike Valley, the goalie coach, and I talk on a weekly basis and he's going to come out here pretty soon and work with me.
What have the Stars told you that you need to work on the most before you can make the jump to the NHL?
I just think the biggest thing for me personally is obviously I need to work on all of my skills. You never need to stop improving, that's for sure. But the biggest thing Dallas told me was my biggest strength is also my biggest weakness. You know, I really want the puck, which is a good thing to have but at the same time I kind of use my quickness to a disadvantage sometimes. I try to come across the net and I tend to fly across the net too fast, and I get beat on scrambles and things like that. I kind of need to just put it in a different gear and be more patient. The goalie I've been watching a lot is Kari Lehtonen, he's great at that. Mike's done a great job of showing me film and giving me tips. So I'm working on it, and I hope to be in the NHL pretty soon.