Players like David Kampf are often looked over. His numbers don’t jump off the page and you won’t find very many highlight reels when you search David Kampf, but players like him have had an important role in helping make the Blackhawks the best team of the 2010s.
Invaluable Role Players
Starting with the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team, the Blackhawks have had role players that accept their roles and execute, as broadcaster Eddie Olczyk frequently says. Having high-flying superstars and sound goaltending is obviously important in building a winning team, but without bottom-six forwards who excel in their roles, teams won’t see very much success in the playoffs.
In 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks had one of the most skilled teams ever assembled. Duncan Keith won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, Patrick Kane scored the most important goal in franchise history, and Jonathan Toews showed his incredible leadership abilities. But you don’t win championships with superstars alone.
Role players, oftentimes found in the bottom-six forwards or third pair on defense, have always been critical to team success. The 2010 Blackhawks’ team had John Madden, a player who only registered two points in the 22 games played that postseason, but his positionally-sound game and success at the faceoff dot were invaluable contributions to the team’s championship season.
In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Blackhawks were far and away the best team in the league. The Blackhawks started the season 21-1-3 and were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. But without role players Michal Handzus, Michael Frolik. and Jamal Mayers in the mix, that team does not hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years.
Lastly, the 2015 team traded for Antoine Vermette in February because of his faceoff expertise. Vermette was ultimately a huge part of the team’s success that postseason, most notably scoring the game-winner in double overtime of game three against the Ducks in the Western Conference Final.
David Kampf Improving Each Season
David Kampf is quietly becoming a similar role player to those mentioned above. In the 2019-20 season, only four Blackhawks appeared in all 70 games — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, and David Kampf. And this is not by mistake. Since joining the Blackhawks in 2017, the Czech Republic native continues to improve each season and has made it difficult to keep him out of the lineup.
David Kampf’s first season in North America started in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. Appearing in 33 games, Kampf registered seven goals and 11 assists. Kampf was eventually called up to the Blackhawks in late December and has been in Chicago ever since. Appearing in 46 games that season, Kampf finished the year with the 11th-most minutes played by a forward and the 4th-most minutes played by a forward on the penalty kill. Kampf even scored his first career NHL goal on his 23rd birthday with a deflection on a shot from the point.
The 2018-19 season was an important year for the Blackhawks, and specifically for Kampf. After three Stanley Cups in 11 seasons as the head coach, Joel Quenneville was fired and 34-year-old Jeremy Colliton was hired. Through all the frustration and confusion of that season, Kampf continued to improve.
Appearing in 63 regular-season games, Kampf finished the season playing the eighth-most minutes by a forward and the fourth-most minutes by a forward on the penalty kill. Coach Colliton’s confidence in Kampf was reflected in his ice time. Compared to an average ice time of 12:21 per game under Quennivelle to start the season, Kampf finished the year with 13:55 of average ice time and his place in the lineup was secure.
Following that season, Kampf was rewarded with a contract extension of two years at $1 million per year.
For a player who has yet to reach the 20-point mark in a season, David Kampf is still an important piece of the current Blackhawks team. Out of only four players to appear in all 70 games this season, Kampf’s numbers offensively may leave you wondering why he is included in that group. Compared to Patrick Kane’s team-leading 84 points, Jonathan Toews’ second-best 60 points, and Alex DeBrincat’s respectable 45 points, David Kampf’s 16 points is not impressive. But it’s what Kampf does without the puck that makes him so valuable.
Kampf had the second-best faceoff % at 52.34, trailing only Jonathan Toews’ remarkable 57.3%. As well as being a reliable faceoff man, Kampf’s responsible play without the puck is the most impressive part of his game. Never one to dish out open-ice hits, Kampf instead uses his body effectively against the boards either shielding the puck from defenders or slowing a puck carrier down, allowing teammates to eventually gain possession.
Kampf is also the most important forward on the Blackhawks’ penalty kill. At times, special teams were the Achilles’ heel of the Blackhawks. On the power play, they very rarely found the back of the net and the penalty kill was less than effective. The team eventually figured it out while shorthanded, largely due to the play of Kampf. He finished the season with the second-most minutes played on the penalty kill by a forward and helped the Blackhawks finish the season with an 82.1% success rate on the penalty kill, good for ninth-best in the league.
David Kampf’s current contract expires after the 2020-21 season when he becomes an RFA. If he continues on this same path that he is on, there is no denying that he will become an important role player in the NHL, whether it be in Chicago or somewhere else.