Jack Campbell entered the season the lead goaltender on the US Under-17 team. He made such a positive impression he was called up to serve as backup goaltender for the Under-18 team when they competed in the IIHF World Under-18 Championships in mid-April, and earned starts in the semifinals and finals …
A Michigan commitment for the incoming class of 2010, Campbell responded to those two assignments with victories in both, shutting out the pre-tournament favorite Russian squad 5-0 in the tournament final. Campbell finished the tourney with a 4-0 record and a 0.75 goals against average.
Soon after his return from Fargo, Campbell took time to answer a few questions from The Wolverine.com's Bob Miller.
Miller: What was it like getting called up to the Under-18 team, coming in as the backup goalie, and then it's "win-or-go-home" hockey and suddenly you're the guy?
Campbell: "I was in Fargo to do one thing -- win a gold medal. If that meant sitting the bench and being a good teammate then that is what I was going to do. However, I had the opportunity to play early in the tournament and everything went well, so when the time came and the team needed me to step up I was ready.
"It was an easy adjustment, though, because the 21 other guys in the locker room were just tremendous. They were on my side the entire way. Adam Murray [the starting goaltender going into the tournament], this guy, first off, is an unbelievable goaltender. Hopefully we [Michigan] don't face Denver [Murray's college choice] in the Frozen Four anytime soon. He and I have been best friends from day one and when the time came when the team called on me to bring it home, he was on my side. I couldn't ask for a better teammate or friend."
Miller: Was this tournament moment the greatest moment of your young career so far?
Campbell: "This tournament was, without question, the greatest moment in my hockey career. The best part about it is that I get to do it again next year with the 21 players I've spent the last two seasons with. Let's just say when that gold medal is around your neck all that hard work has paid off."
Miller: What have you improved in the development of your game this season?
Campbell: "This season I worked really hard with my goalie coach to improve my foundation - stance, glove positioning, lateral movement, and rebound control. Everyday, we would go on the ice a half hour before the team and hammer away on the foundation. It's a grind sometimes, but it has made the difference in my game and fortunately we were able to bring home a gold medal as a result.
"Most importantly, I developed physical strength. Coming into the [US] program I weighed 158 pounds and I had very little strength. After nine months of training, I have gained 30 pounds in muscle and have gotten quicker than I came in. Let's just say I owe a big thank you to Darryl Nelson [US strength coach] for that.
"A big part of my game that has improved is my leadership. Our assistant coach has been working with me on showing confidence to my teammates at all situations. This has been a big factor in elevating my game."
Miller: "How did you feel about playing with so many future Michigan teammates at the U18 tourney? Could you give brief thumbnail thoughts about the strengths of those players – Chris Brown, A.J. Treais, Jon Merrill and Kevin Lynch?
Campbell: "As far as the future of U-M hockey is concerned, the fans should be excited -- Brown, Lynch, Treais and Merrill are not only studs on the ice, but off the ice they are as good of a bunch of guys as I have met.
"Brown - he plays hard every shift and loves to throw his big body around. He loves to hit and guys hate to get hit by him. Also, he has one of the hardest shots I have ever had to attempt to stop.
"Treais - he may be smaller, but the guy can play. He has some of the sickest shootout moves I have ever gone against. Sometimes the best way to go is by skating out of the net just so the guy doesn't make you look bad in practice.
"Merrill - absolute stud. Enough said. Next JMFJ.
"Lynch - in my opinion, it doesn't matter where people have this guy going in the NHL Draft. If I'm a general manager and want a game-changing player, this is the kid I would draft. He scores, hits, backchecks, and most of all hates to lose."
Tomorrow, in a premium story, Campbell talks about his future, including his intent to play at Michigan and the possibility he might not end up in Ann Arbor.