It has certainly been a good year to be an import in Kazan so far. Especially if they are from North America. The team led by Dmitry Kvartalnov has only three international players on its roster by now, with Sweden Par Lindholm returning in late November after missing more than a month with an injury. Both North American players — Jordan Weal and Steven Kampfer — have been instrumental for the Tatarstan franchise. And what makes it even more impressive, is that both players are at their debut season in the KHL. Weal has recently netted his first poker of goals, while Kampfer has been less explosive in single-match stats, but no less important for the franchise — he’s leading all Ak Bars defensemen in scoring, shots on goal, powerplays earned, and average time on ice.
Steven Kampfer was born in Michigan on Sep 24, 1988. He started playing in his home state, but then moved west to play two years with the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League. Before his second season with the Musketeers, Kampfer represented the US at the 2005 Hlinka Gretzky Cup — his only international experience to date.
After his experience in the USHL, Kampfer returned to Michigan to play college hockey. He played four seasons with the Wolverines, helping his team win two Central Collegiate Hockey Association titles, in 2008 and 2010. In the meantime, he was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks 93rd overall in the 2007 NHL draft.
After his college career, in March 2010 he was traded by the Ducks to the Boston Bruins, in whose system he spent most of his pro career. Kampfer had his NHL debut in the 2010-2011 season, when he played 38 games for the Bruins, scoring 10 (5+5) points. Unfortunately, he was injured for the second part of the Bruins’ campaign, thus being not able to help the team in the 2011 playoff, but he was recognized as a Stanley Cup champion with Boston. However, after a further season with the Bruins, he was then traded to Minnesota. He had other NHL stints with the Wild, then with the Florida Panthers, and the New York Rangers, before returning to Boston in 2018. Kampfer then played further three seasons within the Bruins organization, spending time between the NHL and the AHL. Following his 11th season as a pro in North America, Kampfer left the NHL as a free agent and signed his first contract abroad in agreeing to a one-year deal with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL on Jul 5, 2021.
“Kampfer is a solid, right-handed defenseman with excellent skating skills and can be useful on both ends of the rink,” Ak Bars’ GM Marat Valiullin said commenting on the signing of the Canadian blueliner. “Steven played more than 500 games at the NHL and AHL level, and he’s a very experienced player, ready to step in right away. We count on him as one of Ak Bars’ leaders.”
Kampfer played by his resume and had a strong impact on Ak Bars’ defense since the very first game. The Michigan native needed seven games to score his first KHL goal, then had a couple of helpers when Ak Bars defeated CSKA in Moscow on Oct 1. After that, his production steadily increased, and he’s now Kazan’s top-scoring defenseman and leader in several statistics. It’s not rare to see him taking one of the post-game shutout attempts as a further testament to his versatility and offensive abilities.
Ak Bars is currently the fourth seed in the East, and Kampfer is becoming more and more important for the team game after game. Dmitry Kvartalnov will need his top defenseman to score even more to improve the team’s offensive potential and be useful on defense to climb up further in the Eastern Conference standings.