Thursday, September 20, 2007

Breaking Down the 07-08 Wolverines: Steve Kampfer

Our trek through the 2007-2008 edition of the Michigan Hockey team now makes its way to the third member of the defense corps: #5, Steve Kampfer.

Last Season: Recorded a line of 1-3--4 in 35 games to go with 24 PIMs and a +3 mark, which was second-worst on the team amongst people that actually played and stuck out the year (Lebler was the worst at +2 if you don't count Jason Bailey's astounding -11 in 19 games).

At times he was pretty solid, if not ever really noticeable. At other times, he was a turnover machine and I never really felt comfortable with him having the puck in our own end.

And yet, the NHL scouts were in agreement that he has a good amount of natural ability and was worthy not only of being drafted, but of being drafted in the Top 100 (he went 93rd to Anaheim). Max Giese, a writer for McKeen's, wrote the following about Kampfer in the lead up to the Draft:

74. D Steven Kampfer, 5-11 200, 9-24-1989, Michigan NCAA 35 gp – 1 g – 3 a – 4 points.
++ Poise, vision, hockey sense
+ Skill
- Does nothing special.

Plays a mature two-way game that goes unnoticed by the untrained eye but he’s the type of reliable defenseman that the more you see of him the more you like. He’s mobile with exceptional lateral mobility and a strong stride heading forward. He sees the ice well and distributes the puck crisply. Possesses underrated skill that shines through every so often, and it is something that should be on display more next season with increased ice time. His defensive positioning is impressive and he can skate with anyone making him a formidable one-on-one defender. He’s not a big guy, but is sturdy on his feet and can land the odd nice open-ice body check. Steven is a smart player with superb two-way awareness. While he’s not a first-round prospect he definitely deserves to be drafted before the mid-rounds.

That's one I'm going to disagree with, but I'll defer to the people who get paid to do what they do. I don't see poise as his #1 trait, and I'd definitely list "Turnovers" as a double-minus. I also kind of take issue with listing a defenseman who was next-to-last in +/- on a shoddy defensive team as "reliable". That doesn't mean he can't get there. I don't doubt he'll be improved for the upcoming season, and increased ice time should help as well. As I wrote before, I like Kampfer. It's just that I never once watched him and thought to myself, "There's a guy that I could see playing in the NHL someday." The scouts disagree, and I hope like hell they're right. Because a much-improved, more comfortable Steve Kampfer would be a huge help to our blueline.

Expectations: As critical as I was at times, it is hard to step in as a freshman and play defense. Especially when you don't have a goalie to bail you out at times. With a year under his belt, his poise with the puck should increase. His ability to get the puck out of the zone should be improved as well. I can't recall having too many issues with his defensive play in our own zone.

He does have the skill to be a good defenseman, we just haven't seen it consistently. I love his skating ability. He's got good size--even if he's not tall--and he's not afraid to hit. Getting the puck out of the zone is his biggest issue, and if he's improved on that, I think he'll be a solid defenseman.

He's never put up huge numbers offensively (12-23--35 in 103 USHL games), but he may get a chance to play on the power play more this year. If not, he'll at least see more ice time. That alone should lead to a jump in his numbers, even if only up into the 10-15 point range. He's much more Jason Dest than Jack Johnson. But if he turns into a solid defensive defenseman, that's perfectly fine by me.

Level of Necessity: 7 out of 10

As one of only three returning defensemen (counting Chris Summers), Kampfer is going to be counted on more than he was last year when he was a freshman in a veteran-laden group. Everyone knows my feelings about our goaltending, and my position that if this team is going to be successful, we need to be a lot better in our own end. He's going to be a Top 4 defenseman on this team, and as such, it's pretty crucial that he show significant improvement over his freshman season.

I'd like to see him at least in the middle of the pack in +/- and in double-digits in points. More importantly, he needs to show the poise that Giese was touting him for. He doesn't have to be Jack Johnson. He just needs to be solid in his own end. Get the puck, get it out. Don't turn it over.


colin said...

How about instead of moving Summers back we move back Fardig?

Packer487 said...

But then you might as well be adding another freshman to the defense corps because I don't think he's actually played much--if any--defense before.

Summers has at least been playing D his whole life and has 30 games of college experience back on the blueline.

I think cloning Summers is the best option. Let's get those Michigan Minds to work and figure out how to do it :)

colin said...

Lebler then? I just really hate the idea of taking Summers, who might be an elite forward talent, and playing him at D, where he will be pretty good but not amazing. I'm probably being too optimistic, but he put on quite a performance in his few times up front.

Packer487 said...

Again, Lebler has been a forward his whole life as far as I know.

The best hope for Summers to play up front would be for all four freshmen to be ready to step in ready to play.

Apart from that, I think the best bet is for Summers to be back up front as a Junior (Mitera goes pro, we bring in Burlon).

And who knows, Summers might turn into a great defenseman. I gotta believe they reigned him in a little bit last year since Hunwick and Johnson did enough freelancing. This year, with those two gone, maybe he gets the green light to run the puck that Johnson had.