CEDAR PARK — When Derek Laxdal was a 17-year-old playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League, he was teammates with Ron Hextall, who became the first NHL goalie to regularly leave his crease and handle the puck.
“He was amazing. If you gave him a hockey stick, he’d probably have the hardest shot on the team,” Laxdal said. “That’s where the skill really started to develop.”
Three decades later, goalies commonly handle the puck and Texas Stars’ Jack Campbell is one of the best — if not the best — puck-handling goalies in the American Hockey League.
“Jack’s very good with the puck. It just kind of gives you that extra defenseman on the ice,” Laxdal said. “He can stop pucks on the penalty kill, knock them down on the wall, and he takes a lot of wear and tear off our defensemen.”
Campbell also enjoys it.
The 23-year-old often spends time before and after practice shooting pucks — he can easily pick the top corners of the net — and often fires accurate passes to teammates as they work on one-timers after formal practice has ended.
“I think that helps out a lot,” Campbell said. “You get more comfortable with all the different moves and situations.”
Campbell said it’s something “he’s always done” since he made the full-time transition from playing forward to goalie at 9 years old.
“I was thrown in a net a couple times, but it didn’t go very well,” Campbell said. “I liked being a forward, but my cousin (Marshall Campbell) was a goalie so I wanted to be like him and I made the switch.”