ERIE, Pa. — Last season, Aidan Campbell was a sophomore goaltender for Seneca Valley High School and a part-time starter for the Raiders as they made their way through the PIHL season.
Campbell earned a 5-3-1 record while splitting time with Cole Hoffman and Robbie Halyama that season.
When the Raiders bowed out of the PIHL postseason in the first round, the Campbell went on to earn a national title with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program in Grand Rapids, Michigan, turning aside 26 of 27 against Yale in the championship game.
This season, he’s taken his game up yet another level.
The 17-year-old from Cranberry Township signed with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League after being drafted by the club 224th overall in the OHL Priority Draft in 2018. The OHL is the top level of junior hockey available to players born in Pennsylvania, and Erie is the only Pennsylvania-based team in the league.
Campbell has made the transition nicely. He earned his first career shutout on Monday night and has an .879 save percentage and a 3.48 goals-against average in 23 games and is currently ranked as the No. 28 North American goaltender for the 2020 NHL draft.
“I think that from my experience at the AAA standpoint is that it was not as fast and some of the players were not as skilled,” Campbell said. “I feel like that gap has really improved my game as a person and a hockey player, so I’m glad I made the jump and happy that I’m here.”
The added pressure of playing for a team and in a league that has many players in the same situation has also aided in his development, as the OHL provides many of the draft-eligible players that the NHL covets.
“It’s better exposure,” Campbell said. “It’s a a lot harder, considering everybody’s trying to get that draft spot, get picked. Everybody’s working towards that same goal and making it challenging for me. I’m willing to work harder towards that goal.”
An additional bonus for the young goaltender in Erie has been the opportunity to platoon at the OHL level with a goaltender that has been in his position, as he shares the crease with third-year OHL veteran Daniel Murphy.
“Murph’s really been helping me find the ropes on this team,” Campbell said. “He’s been a great influence. I don’t think I would’ve gotten anywhere without him. He’s really helped me and showed me how this league is a challenge rather than other leagues. I’m really grateful for him to be here.”
When it comes to what amount to the biggest days of this life this coming June, the netminder is trying to keep an open mind wabout the process.
“I’ve had a lot of stress about it,” Campbell said. “But at the end of the day it’s just one day of the draft. It is a big deal. It’s somebody’s dream that gives a lot of stress. There’s always next year, but you want to be drafted with your birthclass.”
After leaving the Raiders this past offseason, Campbell is still monitoring his former colleagues and supportive of their efforts.
“Yeah, a couple of times actually. I saw a couple of articles about it. Some are good, some are bad, I miss everybody back at home, but I’m happy I’m here”