By Tom Annelin
FOR Nikolas Campbell, being chosen to compete in last week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ont., was something the 17-year-old truly relished.
Campbell suited up for Team West and helped lead his side to a 6-4 triumph over Team East in the match-up that was heavily attended by scouts from all 31 National Hockey League teams as well as a plethora of NCAA coaches from the U.S.
Each of the 40 participating players in the event were picked to play by NHL Central Scouting and featured 13 CJHLers who were named to the NHLCS mid-term rankings heading into the 2020 NHL Draft this June in Montreal.
A member of the Superior International Junior Hockey League’s Thunder Bay North Stars, Campbell justly enjoyed the experience.
“You know, I’m very grateful to have been selected for this,” offered the rookie forward in the SIJHL. “I was super excited to play. It was real fast playing with and against great hockey players.”
The talent level on both participating clubs was an experience Campbell savoured.
“Amazing players; great guys; super skilled and it was awesome to practice and play the game with them.”
His goal when taking to the ice in the contest was simple.
“I just wanted to work as hard as I could out there and help Team West get a W.”
Among those on hand in Hamilton was SIJHL commissioner Bryan Graham, who witnessed Campbell and the rest of the prospects in action on the ice.
“It was a great opportunity for Nikolas to represent our league and show off his skills in front of the NHL scouts and all the NCAA coaches, who also took in the game,” stated Graham.
“The SIJHL and our coaches continue to work hard to give our players the opportunities to advance to the next level,” added Graham.
Earlier this season the Thunder Bay product earned an invite to the Team Canada West selection camp that formulated a roster that competed at the World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C.
“That was awesome being invited to that,” said Campbell. “Same thing as the CJHL Prospects Game. Great group of guys, who were all hard workers and super fast skaters. I learned a lot from it.”
Now in his first year in Jr. A, Campbell is currently the highest point-producing 2002-born player in the SIJHL and sits fourth in overall league rookie offensive numbers with 29 points in 33 games, including 13 goals.
The skilled forward is enjoying his initial campaign with the North Stars.
“Its going really good. We have a great group of guys who work hard and hopefully we can get a championship this year and finish it off right.”
Last season under head coach Darrin Nicholas, Campbell helped lead the Thunder Bay major midget Kings to a North American Prospects Hockey League’s Dixon Cup under-18 title as well as compete in the TELUS Cup Canadian National Midget Championship held at the Fort William Gardens.
His efforts saw him named to the year-end NAPHL U-18 Elite Division All-Star team at forward.
Campbell was joined there by current North Stars teammate, in goaltender, Jordan Smith and fellow forward honouree Nicholas DeGrazia who helped propel Team Canada East to a silver medal at the recently completed World Jr. A Challenge.
Making that leap from AAA midget to the Jr. A ranks is part of the learning curve as he continues to develop his game and looks to take it to the next level.
“I think the biggest adjustment going from midget to junior is probably just the speed. It’s a little bit faster, a little bit stronger and has helped me develop too.”
Now in its 23rd year, Tom Annelin’s column appears weekly in The Chronicle–Journal.
Photo credit: Michael P. Hall/CJHL Images