EDMONTON, Alta. – The recently signed Jack Campbell has a double reputation among many of his Oilers teammates. A good boy. Great goalkeeper.
“Amazing person. A very nice guy. As a goalkeeper, he’s someone who just tries to push the limits and push his ability as far as he can with his work ethic.” Zach Hyman said Monday at his Celebrity Golf Classic in Toronto. “I think it will fit perfectly into the group we have here, just extremely talented and competitive. A great addition for us.”
Campbell joins the Oilers locker room already with some familiarity with the roster members. Outside of his years in Toronto with players like the aforementioned Hyman, Tyson Barrieand Cody Cecithe keeper was also a junior teammate of Nurse Darnell in 2011-12 with the Soo Greyhounds.
The defenseman only played one season with Campbell, but he got nothing but rave reviews from the new Oilers goaltender.
Video: RAW | Jack Campbell 07.25.22
“One of the nicest people I’ve ever met in hockey. He’s an ultra-competitive guy and we’re extremely lucky he’s wearing an Oilers jersey,” Nurse said of his OHL stint with Campbell. “He’s a competitor. You could tell in Junior that whatever was going to be in front of him, he was going to fight his way past him. That’s why he had the success he had. As a organization and team, it’s really excited to have Jack in the team.”
Despite Campbell’s reputation as an exceptional teammate with a positive and strong personality, it’s all business on the ice for the 30-year-old goaltender.
“He’s cheerful, but he’s a competitor. He wants to win. He works, he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve played with,” Nurse said. “I wouldn’t take that soft-spoken behavior for not thinking he’s a competitor.”
Campbell’s behavior was well known by another recent Oilers free agent splash to Hyman. The two were close during their time in Toronto together and Hyman played a key role in reassuring the goaltender that Edmonton was a perfect place to pursue his career.
Video: RAW | Zach Hyman 25.07.22
“It’s tough. I made the same kind of decision the year before. Everyone thinks it’s so exciting and amazing, and it is, but there’s also the element of uncertainty. and go to a new environment,” Hyman said. “I tried to convey my experience as best I could and be open and honest about how I felt about Edmonton. I think everyone’s situation is different, but for me it was perfect.”
Traditionally, every July 1 (or July 13 in the circumstances of last season), you’ll often see players lobbying some of the best free agents on the open market to join them. When this player has Hyman’s solid reputation, words seem to carry a little more weight.
“I take everything he said very seriously, he has incredible integrity,” Campbell said. “The second I asked him about the whole thing, I was really, really excited about this opportunity.”
Familiarity in the Oilers locker room and rave recommendations from these former teammates definitely made the decision-making process easier for the best goaltender in free agency. Another part of the Oilers organization that helped lure Campbell to Edmonton was the club’s offensive firepower. The Port Huron, Michigan native has listed players as Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, Ryan Nugent Hopkinsand Hyman as jigsaw pieces he’s happy to dress up in.
For the Oilers team captain, who knew Jack Campbell the goalkeeper and not the person, his optimism was very apparent in their brief exchanges.
“I don’t know him much personally, but I’ve only had a few conversations with him since he signed. He just seems like a very positive guy and brings a lot of good energy. His on-ice game speaks for itself,” McDavid said of the career 2.53 GAA puck keeper.
Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 07.25.22
The mindset Campbell brings to the table is well suited to playing in Edmonton. Canadian cities, rightly or wrongly, have a notorious reputation for over-surveillance that many other hockey markets seem to avoid. The Oilers captain believes Campbell’s mentality and experience already playing in a hockey-crazed city like Toronto make him well-suited for the challenges ahead.
“If he can be the starting goaltender for the Leafs, you can be the starting goaltender anywhere,” McDavid said. “Obviously it’s the home of hockey and there’s a lot of pressure for anyone to fill that net. He’s been in this position for almost two years and he’s done a great job doing it.
Dealing with a hyper-engaged fan base is a challenge that Campbell seems to relish, as he knows what the rewards can be. The goaltender admitted watching some of the Oilers playoffs, where fans at Rogers Place showed what success looked like in a city like Edmonton. Now Campbell has the next five years to help push the Oilers to their ultimate goal and experience it for himself.
“When Edmonton called free agency day and we ended up closing this deal, I remember feeling grateful and honored. I felt they were committed to me and they believed in me for the next five years,” Campbell said. “All I can think about is being the best I can be today. I just want to show up with this group and win with this group.”