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Steven Kampfer: 7th man out

August 13, 2011

Upward and onward by leaps and by bounds.

With the departures of Recchi and Ryder, and the introduction of Benoit Pouliot, the forward lines for the 2011-2012 Bruins will probably undergo many changes, before reaching a point where they can be settled and allowed to age. Caron is the next likely candidate for a forward slot, with Spooner and Knight are potential OHL-returnees with the outside chance.

Equally fascinating will be the Bruins defensemen. The heart of Claude Julien’s system has always rested with his shutdown (not by style, but by edict) defenders. From Zdeno Chara onward, it was a team built from the back-end up.

This brings us to Steven Kampfer, 22 year-old Bruin and University of Michigan alumni (did the full four years, too) and USHL product. He did six games in the minors with Providence at the end of his senior year, producing one goal, two assists. He was assigned to Providence to start the 2010-2011 season, but when injury brought now-Jet Mark Stuart down, he jumped right on in. He tallied five goals, five assists, then ping-ponged around a bit after the Kaberle acquisition. He finished out the regular seasons with the Baby Bruins, had a knee injury too, before hanging around with the team through the playoffs, practicing with them and suiting up at the end of the Finals. He may not have played a playoff game, but surely the experience was a valuable one.

He followed a longer road to hockey, one that involved schooling and a trade to the Bruins from the Ducks who originally drafted him 97th overall in 2007. He suffered a horrific attack during a Michigan-Michigan State game. It was an attack that prompted his father to force entry into the Michigan State locker room and physically confront the player responsible. This checkered history is not something the Boston media have ventured into. Earlier that school-year he was involved in an off-ice altercation, one that landed him the hospital and later had him testifying in court that an argument between he and an ex-girlfriend resulted in him grabbing her arm, until another student and bar-goer stepped in. Suffice to say, young Kampfer has managed to rebound and move forward. He’s been through a lot, and it seems it emboldened him in his NHL career and granted him a maturity some 22 year-olds might not have.

Kampfer’s first NHL goal. 

Kampfer showed spark and pep during his time with the Big Bruins. His offensive ceiling appears to be rather high, but it seems like the risks of pinching in and learning to eliminate sloppy turnovers are things he will need to become better versed in if he envisions a more permanent NHL role. He is a slick-passer and is quick on his feet. He has great instincts and from his five goals this season, he definitely knows when to drive to the net and exploit a vulnerable goalie, or when to hold. He tangled up in a fight, too, in that wild Montreal game. Throws hits and shoves guys in the neutral zone. He is on the smaller side, but that clearly hasn’t inhibited his play. He is swift and slippery. I think it’s entirely possible he becomes a key, puck-moving defensemen. Problem is, there’s a log-jam at the moment. The Bruins brought in Joe Corvo from Carolina, with Kaberle since departed. Corvo is a solid NHLer. None of the Bruins’ other five defensemen will be headed anywhere. That leaves Kampfer the odd-man out. Does he start in Providence? Does he tag along with Boston in reserve? He’s just $587,500 against the cap, easily managed. But what’s right for him, for his development?

I think experience outweighs stability at this stage, and I think he starts the season in Providence, barring some miraculous happening. He probably can’t earn a spot at training camp in September: there is actually no spot to be earned. He’ll be a top-pair man in Providence. It’s better he get increased ice-time and stay out of the press-box.When injury strikes, which it typically does, come November, he’ll be the first to get called up. I don’t think he stands to be traded at this stage, as the defense cupboards are a tad more bare than those of forwards. He is young and will be needed. Ference, Chara and Seidenberg will only be advancing in their 30s, and Kampfer will be a helpful piece of the future (which, admittedly, is a long ways away).

Kampfer has the skill and the will to be an NHL player. In the jump from NCAA hockey to the NHL (or from CHL to NHL, or KHL, wherever you were), it’s never clear how the transition will work. He made it seamlessly. But just like the Bruins’ situation at center, defense is locked. He may have to wait, but it will only improve him.

Steven Kampfer’s highlights:

 

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