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Victoria Grizzlies’ rising star Alex Campbell keeps even keel

VICTORIA, B.C.: January, 30, 2019 – Photo of Alex Campbell of the Victoria Grizzlies during practice. VICTORIA, B.C. January 30, 2019. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST). For Sports story by Brian Drewry.
Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Although the term “meteoric rise” seems often used in sports, it isn’t that common an occurrence. If it were, it wouldn’t be so striking when it happens.

That’s what makes Victoria Grizzlies rookie forward Alex Campbell’s storyline notable: He is living the rise, meteoric or otherwise.

On nobody’s radar last summer as a relative unknown in his native Chateauguay, Que., Campbell crept into scouts’ view by flashing his speed and skill early in the B.C. Hockey League season. Now he is the No. 42-ranked North American skater for the 2019 NHL draft on a Grizzlies team that boasts four players ranked by Central Scouting, including projected first-rounder Alex Newhook.

“The attention is cool but I don’t let it go to my head,” said Campbell.

He notes he can only command how he plays, not what the scouts write down about him: “I focus on things I can control, not on things I can’t control.”

Which is probably the best advice for any junior or collegiate player on or off the NHL scouting radar.

Campbell and the Grizzlies (29-16-2) host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (16-29-3) in an Island Division matchup tonight at The Q Centre. It kicks off a big weekend for the Grizzlies, who find themselves in second place in the division, one point behind Powell River, although the Kings have played one more game. The Kings and Grizzlies meet Saturday and Sunday in The Q Centre in a two-game set that could go a long way toward deciding the Island Division regular-season title.

The Grizzlies feel they have let Powell River back into the race during a 2-3 Victoria stretch in the last five games, which included two losses to the Kings, and the Grizzlies will be looking to rectify matters this weekend.

“We’re drifting and playing more and more on our own and that has led to a lot of bad plays and turnovers. We haven’t been playing our game,” said Campbell.

Getting back to more team cohesion is the answer.

“We’ve got to get back to fast paced hockey with puck on stick,” said Campbell.

It’s an old axiom, but no less true because of that: When team success comes, so do individual accolades.

Campbell is committed to Clarkson University of the NCAA, but in which season, has yet to be determined. That decision could come down to what the NHL team that drafts him wants him to do.

Heading into Wednesday night games, Campbell was tied for seventh in league points with 17 goals and 55 points, although he has played several less games than his competitors because of Team Canada West and Top Prospects Game commitments. Newhook leads the BCHL with 74 points, even though he too has played several less games because of those same commitments.

Campbell realizes he is not yet ready for the pro game and knows what he needs to develop: “Definitely, more physical strength.”

If another season of junior is warranted before the NCAA, Campbell said it will “most likely be in Victoria.”

Which is fine by him on many levels. He only need look at the winter weather back home in Quebec and other points east.

“They are having a snowstorm there while I can go on a hike,” he said.

In becoming an adopted West Coaster, he doesn’t even mind getting a little rain on him. The angle on the ice, however, is to start raining more pucks on the opposition goal to get the drifting Grizzlies back on point.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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