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Campbell a 15th-rounder turned NHLer

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By Peter Ruicci (Independent Media) | Photo by James Egan’s Sports Photography

How much does Andrew Campbell remember about the day he was drafted into the NHL?

That question was met with a quick response.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Campbell, a former Greyhounds defenceman, who penned a rags-to-riches story en route to skating in the NHL. “It was awesome. I remember going with my family to the draft in Ottawa.”

There, the now 33-year-old native of Caledonia, Ont., heard his name called in the third round (No. 74 overall) of the 2008 selections by the Los Angeles Kings.

What made being drafted extra special for Campbell was the fact he took a road largely untraveled.

First of all, few 15th-round draft choices even make it to the Ontario Hockey League.

Then, he wasn’t drafted into the NHL until he had completed his third-and-final season with the Greyhounds.

Hounds general manager Dave Torrie used the 281st selection of the 2004 OHL draft to add Campbell to the Soo fold. He had been a forward who didn’t make the switch to the blue-line until his minor midget season.

“I played Junior C as a 16-year-old and made the Greyhounds as an eighth defenceman when I was 17,” Campbell recalled. “I was doing whatever I could to get into the lineup.”

As an OHL rookie, Campbell got into 31 games, notching a goal and three assists. But he impressed then head coach Craig Hartsburg and earned regular duty in his second season.

By Season 3, the 2007-2008 campaign, Campbell was a mainstay. He was a team leader, while playing strong defence and contributing 13 goals, 22 assists and a plus-minus of plus-20 in 68 games.

Despite a lack of big names, that season’s Hounds finished 44-18-2-4, second to Kitchener (53-11-1-3) in the Western Conference. The Soo swept Saginaw in four straight in the conference quarters before beating Guelph in five games in the semifinals.

They lost to Kitchener in five games in the conference finals and the Rangers would go on to beat Belleville in seven games to capture the OHL championship.

“Kitchener was hosting the Memorial Cup that year and they were pretty much a juggernaut,” Campbell recalled. “We had traded for Wayne Simmonds and he moved into the billet house I was in. We had a great team and we had a lot of fun.”

The Hounds also acquired centre Matt Caria, a Sault native, and tough winger Anthony Peluso before the trade deadline.

Campbell spoke of how “it’s too bad Kitchener wasn’t in the other conference, because we definitely had a team to go to the championships.”

While playing at the Memorial Auditorium, Kitchener wound up losing the 2008 Memorial Cup final, 4-1 to the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs.

Playing for Hartsburg “was awesome,” Campbell said. “He was tough and demanding, but it was great for me. Looking back, I’m very thankful that I had him as my coach in junior. It made me a lot better pro.”

The six-foot-four, 205-pound Campbell was in his sixth season with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs before finally getting a chance with the Kings.

“That was a crazy time. I got called up from Manchester on a Friday afternoon,” Campbell said. “I got a car service from there to Boston and flew Boston to Montreal and Montreal to Vancouver. I played the next night in Vancouver on Hockey Night in Canada.”

He played in three games with the Kings that season and saw action in 33 games with the Arizona Coyotes, notching one assist during the 2014-2015 NHL campaign. One year later, while playing for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Campbell got into six games, earning an assist, for his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I grew up a huge Leafs fan and that was pretty surreal,” he said. “A lot of my family members and buddies are Leafs fans. To be able to wear that jersey for a few regular season games was really cool.”

After notching two assists in 42 NHL games, and skating for 11 seasons in the AHL, Campbell retired. He’s presently in his first season as an assistant coach with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, working with the club’s rearguards and penalty-killing units.

“Really enjoying it,” Campbell said. “I’ve known for a while it was something I’ve wanted to do post-playing.”

He and wife Amber have two daughters, five-year-old Annie and Joey-Lynn, now three.

One thing is certain, Campbell added, the red and white will always be special to him.

“Being back in the league now, I see that Greyhounds jersey and it gives me goosebumps,” he admitted. “I loved my time there. There’s not enough good things I can say about the city and the people and the atmosphere. It holds a special place in my heart.”

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