While rookie netminder Petr Mrazek has grabbed most of the headlines for the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, it was two strong performances by Tom McCollum that helped the team back into first place in the Midwest Division over the weekend.
Now in his fourth AHL season with the Griffins, McCollum is quietly off to his best start (6-3-1) yet. The netminder turned 23 on Friday, and celebrated by turning aside all 20 shots he faced in a 3-0 shutout of the Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks). The 2008 first round pick of the Detroit Red Wings got the start again Sunday against the Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks) with first place in the division on the line. He made 31 saves as Grand Rapids got a 4-2 victory in an intense, fight-filled game.
The Wings drafted McCollum after his second season with the OHL’s Guelph Storm. He won 25 games in each of his first two seasons there, before winning 34 games between Guelph and the Brampton Battalion in 2008-09. The Battalion reached the OHL finals that season, and McCollum also represented Team USA at the 2009 World Juniors.
His time at the professional level has been spent between the ECHL Toledo Walleye and the Griffins, and injuries to Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard in 2011 earned him a trip to Detroit, where he played 15 minutes in relief of Joey MacDonald against the St. Louis Blues. The experience was less than pleasant, as he gave up three goals on eight shots.
McCollum finds himself in the last season of his entry level contract, but could be playing himself into more time with the Wings. For the time being, the Griffins have a dynamic goaltending duo that could get them to the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season.