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BC Born: Matthew Campbell

Photo credit: Garrett James Photography

Matthew Campbell is known as one of the best offensive defencemen in the BCHL. He is top five in the league in points from the back end. He was one of the Coquitlam Express selections for the All-Star Weekend event that was postponed in January and earlier this year, he announced his commitment to Quinnipiac University, an NCAA Division I program.

All that being said, he was on a completely different track until a few years ago. Campbell had exclusively played the forward position up until his first year of Bantam playing for North Vancouver Minor Hockey. It wasn’t until late that season when his former head coach in North Van Dani Cioffi shifted him to defence late in the year and things just clicked.

“I found that it was kind of my calling,” said Campbell. “Things like moving up the ice with the puck came naturally. Compared to a lot of defencemen, I think I’m better around the net because of those years I spent playing forward. When I became a full-time defenceman, it really came naturally.”

After he got comfortable in his new role, options started to open up for Campbell. He joined the Burnaby Winter Club when he was he was 14 and played two years there before suiting up for the Vancouver Northwest Hawks program in 2019-20. That is when his offensive game really took off and he racked up 39 points in 39 games to finish second in team scoring and second in the entire BC U18 league among defencemen.

That season, he also got his first taste of BCHL hockey as an affiliate for the Express, a team that dominated the regular season with a 49-9-1-1 record and a first-place finish.

Campbell credits those four games as an affiliate for helping him prepare for his first full-time season in the league the following year.

“It set such a high standard for junior hockey,” he said. “Just practicing with them, I got to see the way those guys treated their bodies and worked in practice every day. That definitely rubbed off on me. There were so many great players on that team. I got to watch what they do and try to be a sponge as best I could.”

The 6-foot-1, 165-pound blueliner played his rookie campaign in the BCHL last year during Coquitlam’s pod season. Despite the unique circumstances, he managed to put together a solid year, collecting eight points in 17 games. This season, he has reached another level. He has six goals and 22 assists for 28 points in 40 games.

His offence has always been there for him, but what he is most proud of this year is the improvement he has made in other areas of his game.

“I think my game has come a long way since last season,” he said. “What’s been huge for me this year is working a lot on the defensive side of the puck and getting myself prepared for college. I’m pretty confident in myself that the offence will come at any level, but it’s just tightening up the rest of my game that I’m focused on.”

While working on his game and trying to push the Express to a playoff spot, Campbell cannot help but look ahead at his next destination at Quinnipiac, especially given the season they are having.

They were the first school he visited and he was so impressed with what he saw that he decided to cancel the other visits he had on his schedule. Campbell has full confidence that the coaching staff and the rest of the program will elevate his game and help him reach his goal of playing professional hockey.

Quinnipiac also has 15 former BCHL players on the roster, something that Campbell admits drew him in.

“Seeing a lot of BCHL guys, specifically a lot of guys from North Van where I grew up, that was really cool to me. It’s almost close to home in a way.”

A player with his skillset is an asset for any lineup. Whether it’s next year or further down the line, when Campbell is ready to make the move to college hockey, he should fit right in.

Just like home.