Whoever says there is no room for pure defensive players in the NHL is wrong. The Maple Leafs’ third-line center David Kampf is proof of that. Kampf has established himself as a crucial piece of the team’s roster and was one of the best signings made by former general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas in the 2021 offseason.
In fact, he’s seen as crucial enough for the team that new GM Brad Treliving has re-signed him for four more years.
Kampf Is a Defensive Player Extraordinaire
I am very pleased the team re-signed Kampf, even if he’s not known for his scoring ability. He has still made a significant impact on the ice through his defensive play. Despite not being drafted, he’s managed to have a successful 333-game career in the NHL. For him, it’s about hard work and determination.
No, his offensive numbers do not jump out. On the other hand, his defensive skills have allowed him to thrive in the league.
Kampf’s defensive mindset is evident in his style of play. He prioritizes defence and excels at it. While he might not drive opposition players into the boards with thundering body checks, he effectively uses his body to separate opposing players from the puck. He’s able to maintain strong defensive positioning and tie up opponents.
Unlike some defensive centers who rely heavily on shot-blocking, Kampf knows where to be to disrupt the opposition and deny scoring chances. Surprisingly, he does all this without taking a ton of penalties. Last season, he only accumulated 20 minutes in the sin bin.
Kampf and Kerfoot Were a Key Part of Keefe’s Defensive Strategy
One of Kampf’s key strengths is his reliability. Last season, head coach Keefe involved both Kampf and Kerfoot to provide defensive stability. This strategy pushed Kerfoot to the wing, which gave the team additional flexibility and balancing ice time distribution.
Kampf takes pride in his shutdown role. He’s absolutely low maintenance and is fully committed to playing his part on the team – he’s certainly not seeking attention. He’s willing to do the hard work needed for his position; and, that sets him apart.
Kampf’s Focus Is On Defence
While his primary focus is on defence, his offensive limitations are present. Still, he can steal a puck and score. That said, scoring goals has never been his mission. He’s had only two seasons of double-digit goal totals in his career.
Interestingly, Kampf is effective in helping his team protect a lead late in games. He’s great at cycling the puck and keeping it away from his own net. This ability to preserve leads highlights his value as a reliable defender.
Kampf’s role is as a bottom-six defensive specialist. He is exactly what he is. And, by being so, he gives coach Keefe a dependable player for critical moments, including the end of games and penalty kills.
Kampf’s Four-Year Contract Shows His Value to the Team
Kampf’s recent four-year contract extension shows how much the organization recognizes his value. Some fans probably hoped different depth players would have been brought in; however, the Maple Leafs’ management has faith that Kampf’s contributions will help make the team a winner.
It’s hard to find a player who shows up game after game without issue, never causes discord, and is absolutely reliable. Now the team has signed one of these players through the 2026-27 season.
The Bottom Line
Kampf’s signing shows the significance of his value to the team specifically but also to defensive players throughout the NHL. His defensive skills, positioning, and commitment to his role have helped him become a crucial part of the Maple Leafs’ roster.