The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/28/11 at 04:49 PM ET
As I believe I’m allowed to cobble together a second post after my ten-update game-day post-monster falls off the front page: the Red Wings’ theoretical #1 goaltending prospect, Thomas McCollum, has experienced a bumpy 2010-2011 season, losing his job as the Grand Rapids Griffins’ starter to Jordan Pearce and finding himself in the ECHl, where he’s very literally
made friends and impressed higher-ups while helping the Walleye make a late-season attempt to earn a playoff spot.
McCollum’s difficult first two seasons as a professional goaltender may have cost him his status as “Jimmy Howard’s back-up of the future” in Wings’ fans eyes, but he reminded NHL.com’s Brian Hedger that goaltending prospects, and, very specifically, Red Wings goaltending prospects, don’t ripen overnight:
McCollum, Detroit’s first pick in the 2008 Entry Draft (No.30), made the short drive up I-75 from Toledo on Monday morning to be the Red Wings’ back up. After struggling and playing in just 17 games with Grand Rapids, he was sent down to Toledo of the ECHL, where he’s played much better in five games (3-1-0, 2.55 GAA, .913 save percentage).
“It’s been a pretty up and down season,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me is just getting confidence and maintaining it. I’m still only 21. I think a lot of people tend to forget that with me. Jimmy (Howard) didn’t break into the League until he was 25, I think, so time is definitely on my side. I know I can play at this level. It’s just maintaining my confidence level.”
McCollum and his goaltending guru/mentor, Jim Bedard, also addressed his ups and downs with DetroitRedWings.com’s Dave Burke, starting with his possibly ego-massaging call-up to sit on the bench while Joey MacDonald takes on the Blackhawks tonight…
“I definitely feel comfortable, I spent a lot of time around the team this year and it kind of makes you feel more comfortable in the locker room,” McCollum said. “I felt comfortable on the ice this morning and had a good skate, so if I’m called upon I think I can do the job if I need to.”
Before talking about the differences between playing in the AHL and ECHL…
“There’s obviously a pretty big difference, there’s no Pavel Datsuk’s playing in the East Coast League,” he said, “but at the same time you have to adjust and hopefully find a way to battle through it and make saves.”
Speaking of Datsyuk, the Red Wings superstar welcomed McCollum by ripping a shot that knocked the helmet off the 21-year-old in Monday’s morning skate.
“It didn’t really hurt; thankfully my mask was there to save me, but my ear is still a little fuzzy,” McCollum said with a smirk. “He’s got a really good shot and can give you problems in those goalie drills.”
And Bedard made sure to reinforce the fact that McCollum remains a goaltender who’s in progress and evolving into a potential NHL’er:
“I saw him play a couple games in the last week and what I liked about him is he’s playing more under control and he’s being bigger and not surrendering his ice,” Bedard said. “His No. 1 asset is his foot speed and his size (6-foot-2’, 205). Sometimes it’s better to do less when you’re that big. We’ve got a lot of faith in his upside and he’s very well liked by his teammates and as long as he’s working hard I’ve got all the time in the world for Tom McCollum.”
It’s apparently Tom, not Thomas. The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan began the campaign to switch McCollum’s name from the parochial Thomas to the more grown-up Tom, and while McCollum won’t admit to preferring one over the other, the agreeable and highly intelligent young man does prefer Tom.
Regardless of whether it’s Thomas or Tom, however, Wings fans like you and me need to give him the benefit of the doubt. He may very well be 3-4 years away from the NHL, and that’s perfectly OK.
Also: In the pretty cool news department, the Grand Rapids Griffins have named Greg Amadio their Man of the Year:
The Grand Rapids Griffins are proud to announce that defenseman Greg Amadio has been named the team’s winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the West Michigan community during the 2010-11 season.
Amadio, 29, has long been an enthusiastic leader of the Griffins’ outreach efforts, dating back to his first stint in Grand Rapids (2004-06) when he was named co-winner of the team’s 2006 community service award. After earning consecutive Calder Cups with Hershey the last two years, he returned to Grand Rapids and has once again been involved in nearly every community endeavor this season.
Most notably, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native made a special on-ice appearance during the second intermission of the Griffins’ Feb. 25 game to have his long hair cut and donated to Locks of Love. His last haircut had been in June 2009, just after he won his first championship with Hershey.
The rugged blueliner was always eager to lend a hand to the team’s community efforts, volunteering four times to visit patients at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. He attended local youth hockey practices, made a Stick With School appearance at Kent Hills Elementary, participated in a coat drive at Guiding Light Mission, served food at God’s Kitchen, pumped gas during the team’s Pumping Gas fundraiser, and signed autographs after several games.
He was particularly active during the holiday season, giving his time and energy to decorate the women and children’s safe house at Safe Haven Ministries, shop for underprivileged children with the Grand Rapids Jaycees, and help the Griffins front office host a party for students from Harrison Park Elementary.
Amadio also participated in several full-team functions that benefited a variety of charities, including the Pups and Pucks Fall Walk-a-Thon (Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary), the Griffins versus Sled Wings sled hockey game (Sled Wings and Griffins Youth Foundation), the Great Skate Winterfest (Griffins Youth Foundation), and numerous booster club events.
In addition to the Man of the Year honor, Amadio will receive $500 as the winner of the Griffins’ community player of the year award, sponsored locally by Centennial Securities and Dean Foods.
Amadio is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s 2010-11 Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, honoring the overall IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year. The league award is named after the former Hershey Bears forward and AHL All-Star who died in 1997 following a 16-month battle with leukemia. The winner of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award will be announced by the American Hockey League in the coming weeks.
One more thing: In case you don’t already know, via the Clarkson Univeristy Golden Knights’ website, the Toledo Walleye very quietly signed Red Wings prospect Bryan Rufenach to an amateur try-out contract. The 5’10” defenseman’s posted an assist and a +5 over the course of 3 games for Toledo. I’m wondering whether the Wings are giving the graduating senior one more chance to impress them before deciding whether to offer him a pro contract.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.