2019 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Alex Campbell

Growing up as an elite bantam player in Quebec, Alex Campbell made his way out West to play his draft-eligible campaign with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL. There, he joined forces with another Easterner and fellow 2019-eligible, Alex Newhook. Together they became the deadliest duo in Junior A hockey.

What Campbell lacks in physical size and strength, he makes up for in speed and skill. What needs to be determined is whether his talents are translatable or simply effective against tier two competition.

Bio

  • Age/Birthdate: 18 / February 27, 2001
  • Birthplace: Chateauguay, QC, CAN
  • Frame: 5-foot-11 / 154 lbs
  • Position: Centre / Left Wing
  • Handedness: Left
  • Draft Year Team: Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
  • Accolades:
    • 2017-18
      • MPHL Most Goals (21)
      • MPHL Most Points (35)
    • 2018-19
      • BCHL Most Assists by Rookie (45)
      • BCHL Rookie of the Year (Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy)

2018-19 Stat Rundown

GP G A P INV% 5v5 Pr INV% 5v5 ePr60 SEAL Sh/GP Sh% 5v5 eTOI GF% GF%rel GD60 rel XLS% Top XLS% XPR
53 21 46 67 31% 22% 0.64 10% 5% 31.5

Scouting Report

Standing just 5-11 and 155 lbs, Campbell isn’t the biggest player. His slight frame indicates he’s yet to even sniff around his future physical maturity. However, this hasn’t stopped him from producing a clean and powerful stride. His acceleration is effective without appearing frantic – a sign of a technically sound setup.

Notice in the clip below, Campbell employs a wide stance with a deep knee bend. His feet are quickly moving and propelling him with increasing velocity. He has a slight heel kick, but it’s controlled. He successfully tracks down the loose puck, despite having to close more ground than the defender. He then, with his head up, chips the puck with his backhand, pivots his feet, slows and makes a forehand pass across to Newhook.

In the next two clips below, you see the quick acceleration followed by the ability to shift a gear even while at speed.

This ability to handle the puck while assessing the play at high-speed is not a singular event. He enjoys playing at a quick pace and consistently has his head up and on a swivel. Keep an eye out for where he is looking during these clippings. You’ll see what I’m talking about.

The clip below exemplifies his awareness, as he bobbles the puck and seems to slip a bit, but his head remains up. He regains control of the puck and his stride to make a slick move and produce a chance.

Already a polished skater, the temptation to project where he may end up with additional core and leg strength is palpable. He relies on his shiftiness, and will likely never be a heavy player, but an additional 20-odd pounds would allow him the explosion needed to thrive while maintaining the elusiveness that highlights his game.

Speaking of that elusiveness, here is a look at his ability to cause just the right amount of gap between himself and the defender to open a hole to finish or create a high-danger chance. In the clip below, Campbell receives the puck off the wall, cuts back quickly on the backhand before taking a path to the net that allows him the inside track. He dips below the goal line and then leans back in while cutting his edges expertly. To protect the puck, he sticks his knee out, drops his shoulder and uses the power move to force his way through the crease before sliding it in on the forehand.

Notice once again where his head is. After deciding to cut back and force the issue on the backhand, he continues to survey and check in on Newhook as he darts through the slot area. He assesses each option and elects to finish the play himself. This is what I like to call, Hockey IQ.

 Here are some more examples of his intelligence to find soft areas on the ice. Below, he recognizes he can be the third option out wide and slides back. This option becomes the most threatening and he receives the pass and quickly finishes.

Regarding his shot, at this point, it should be considered fine for the junior level, but in need of work as he elevates up. This is not overly unusual considering his strength. He can get shots off reasonably quick and will pick a corner or two. The quickness of the release is what he often uses to beat goaltenders clean. He doesn’t try to blow by them – as it’s unlikely. So he hits his spot and can do so in a hurry.

 

His one-timer leaves more to be desired than his wrister but can still be effective. In this next sequence, Campbell uses his decision making to slow his pace and create a soft spot as he and his mates enter the offensive end. He receives the pass just inside the line, splits through two defenders and slides a pass across the slot that just misses. The puck comes around the wall and he quickly moves back to the left side, where Campbell has once again made himself a soft spot. He cuts into the high slot, arranges his feet with a U-curl to get the shot off with some velocity. The puck is recovered in the corner by his winger who finds him in, you guessed it, another soft spot in the high slot. This time he uses a high wind up and scores through the traffic provided by the opposing defender.

In 13 seconds he’s created three dangerous scoring chances and finishes the final one. In the playoffs to boot.

One of the more useful tools Campbell owns is his backhand. He uses it effectively to stickhandle and distribute but also as a finisher. Similar to his forehand, he gets the puck off the backside in a hurry and doesn’t have any issue getting it up and into the spot he wants. This one also came during playoff action.

As many of my readers know, I value speed and smarts above all else. Thus far, we’ve seen Campbell display those traits. Next up on my checklist are puck skills. This can come in many forms. From the more subtle plays like shifting the angle on a shot or pass to find a lane. To more visually apparent displays like creative and fruitful one-on-one skills, or quick hands coupled with changes in direction.

Below we see the 18-year-old get ‘quiet’ to find that calm and peaceful place that so many great players make their home in the soft spots. He sees Newhook is hunting down the puck and assesses where to station himself. The right side defender bites on Newhook in a prime scoring area and loses his net-front position. Campbell receives the pass and gets off a dangerous shot.  He follows up his rebound and appears to be digging in for a wrap-around. He stops, stickhandles back against the grain and tucks it in on the forehand.

Here’s a look from the down low angle.

Despite the slight stature, Campbell can be difficult to knock off the puck and isn’t shy about fighting in the corner or taking a hit to make a play. In the clip below (which is difficult to see, but we don’t complain about film from junior A) he loses position and finds himself on the backside of the defender who is looking to clear the zone. He lifts the stick, bumps the defender and sends a cross-ice feed that leads to a goal.

Here, he sees the defender stepping up, but gets himself in position to receive the slow bank pass, head on a swivel (always), chips the puck up the wall and takes a bump. This leads to a two-on-one.

These examples provide plenty of positives for the young forward. If it were all good, he’d have posted similar totals to Newhook and be destined for the first round. Some areas of concern are his strength – which is a long ways off. His ability to consistently create offense, and provide shot opportunities for himself when games tighten up.

He can find himself trapped on the outside for stretches when he’s not fully engaged. However, his play through two playoff rounds is encouraging as his point production stayed around the level of the regular season, but his consistency and engagement level ramped up. On several nights, he was the team’s most effective and inspiring forward.

Analysis

Gleaning information from his advanced statistics are a little more difficult than other prospects. Mainly because of the BCHL not recording many stats, many metrics are unavailable to us, including those derived from shots on goal and who was on the ice when goals were scored.

Campbell’s SEAL adjustments don’t paint an overly flattering picture. He produced 1.26 points per game, but with consideration to his age, league, and situational setting, his SEAL adjusted point-per-game output dips to 0.64, with the BCHL league adjustment taking the biggest bite out of his scoring rate.

These metrics are clearly infringing on his expected output as a pro player. pGPS assigns Campbell just a 10% chance of becoming an NHL player – and just a 5% chance of becoming a top-six forward.

Looking at his cohort comparables there are only a handful of successful players who matched similarly to Campbell. The closest successful player and the most interesting of the bunch is Alex Kerfoot. Kerfoot is a player who took the long road to the NHL. He was drafted in the fifth round by New Jersey after producing 25 goals and 69 points in 55 BCHL games. He returned to the junior A ranks for his draft-plus one campaign before completing four seasons at Harvard. He then opted to go the UFA route and signed with Avalanche where he’s immediately become an effective top-nine option.

Campbell is a project pick. Whichever teams lands on his this June will know that and will be betting on a player who could chart a long path towards being an impact NHLer. The slick forward is committed to Clarkson University but not until the fall of 2020. During this past season, he indicated he would be open to potentially moving up his freshman season to 2019-20. However, according to sources at the Draft Combine, he was overheard telling scouts he plans on moving to the USHL to play his draft-plus one season.

He sits in the middle of the calendar for this crop, so he’ll be playing tier two junior as an 18/19-year-old next year. That means the team drafting him may hold his rights for five years instead of the usual four. As long as Campbell remains at school, he’ll remain the property of his drafted team. However, after his junior NCAA campaign, he would have the option to leave school, not sign with that club, and become a UFA as of August 15 – just as Kerfoot did.

The risk associated with selecting a long-term project player is reduced when they are heading to the NCAA – especially for those taking an extra year to build strength before moving up. This affords the team a longer reflective period to determine if the pick deserves a contract. It provides the player with a longer incubation period to improve and assess their own future plans. For Campbell, the risk is minimized as he’ll likely be a target for teams in the third round or later, and the payoff could be a lot more likely than the 10 percent chance that is given to him here.

Sources

Raw data for the charts used in this article came from eliteprospects.com and bchl.com.

Some clips were pulled from original broadcasts, with all rights reserved for the original broadcast companies.