It’s been tough sledding for the Los Angeles Kings this season. With an already aging core, they signed 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk from the KHL to a three-year deal that also made him the second highest paid forward on the roster.
So, with so many quickly aging veterans on the team, winning now is of the utmost importance in L.A. Things didn’t start well enough, and they parted ways with head coach John Stevens just 13 games into the season, paving the way for Willie Desjardins.
Scoring has been a major problem for the Kings this season. As in, they are currently dead last in scoring. In fact, as of the end of Wednesday night’s games, only Los Angeles has yet to break the century mark in goals this season (98).
A bright spot has been the emergence of Jack Campbell in net. The former first-round pick of the Dallas Stars was thought to be one of the next best American goalies after backstopping Team USA to the gold medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2010.
World Junior Championship heroics, slow climb through Dallas
It’s rare that underage goaltenders make much of an impact in the WJC's, so when Campbell broke out and helped the Americans to gold, it helped his draft status skyrocket.
Campbell was named the tournament’s best goaltender during both the 2010 and 2011 edition. After turning pro with the Stars, Campbell would bounce back and forth between the American Hockey League (AHL), and East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) but only get into one game at the NHL level.
He was eventually traded to the Kings, in exchange for defenseman Nick Ebert - also a veteran of the WJC for Team USA. The Kings acquired him in hopes he could become the backup to another American netminder, Jonathan Quick.
Even though the Kings are in the contention for being ‘awarded’ the first overall pick, somehow it feels like the season could be going worse. That’s mainly due to the play of Campbell, especially as of late.
Quick himself has missed time this season to injury, which opened the door for Campbell to carve out a role of his own, and create an interesting dynamic going forward.
Having been the longtime franchise goaltender, do the Kings continue to lean on him when they have someone playing the way Campbell is?
Campbell currently leads the NHL in save percentage (SV%), and is second in goals-against-average (GAA) and has done so while receiving the lowest goal support among goalies across the league.
The Kings are averaging 1.77 goals-for per 60 minutes played while Campbell is on the ice, by far the lowest of any goalie who has played at least 800 minutes this season.
Over his last five games played, Campbell has surrendered just seven goals, and has posted a .957 SV% while also watching his offense go back-to-back starts without scoring a goal.
Goalies are certainly their own individual breed of hockey players, as it is rare that any of them take a similar path to the NHL as each other. After his breakout performances at the WJC and going along with his draft status, it seemed that Campbell was on the fast track to NHL stardom.
That was nine years ago now, with the anniversary of USA’s victory over Canada in the gold medal game that Campbell starred in. His next appearance in net will be Campbell’s 23rd overall in the NHL. After a recent birthday, Campbell is now 27-years-old, meaning he certainly didn’t take the fast track that was expected of him nearly a decade ago.
In a year that has been dominated by some of the backups across the league, Campbell arguably stands higher than all of them thanks to his individual performance.
There has been a lot of things that have gone wrong in Los Angeles this season.
Campbell hasn't been one of them.
What have you thought of Campbell's play this season? Is he someone that could potentially be a starter on his own, or is he just a really good backup? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!