Tom McCollum has come to realize he can control a hard slap shot from in close a lot better than he can control his career path as a professional goaltender.
He can’t control what others think, either, as the longest-serving member of the Grand Rapids Griffins in his fifth season and at 23 years old.
But he can control the way he matures, something he holds vital in a battle to avoid life as an AHL journeyman and maintain his pursuit to play in the NHL.
“Sometimes it gets lost, but I did start here when I was 19,” McCollum said. “The way I look at it, you look at someone like Joey MacDonald (a former Griffin now with the Calgary Flames) who is finally getting his first crack at 33.
“Some guys, you just got to wait and find your time and keep working in the meantime.”
McCollum is one of those guys.
The former No. 1 pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 – and the youngest to ever play goal in Grand Rapids when he debuted at 19 years, nine months in October, 2009 – McCollum did not get the rocket launch he expected for his pro career, and not even close to what he saw Petr Mrazek pull off as a rookie with the Griffins last year. It was Mrazek, not McCollum, who played every minute of the Calder Cup championship a season ago.
Instead, it was McCollum who had to deal with talk that his progress had slowed, despite his best season a year ago. He had 2.63 goals against average and a .904 save percentage along with two shutouts and an 18-11-2 record – all career highs.
Part of it was the arrival and performance of Mrazek, which pushed him into the background during the regular season (2.33 GAA, .916 save pct.) and then became a postseason star with four shutouts in 24 games.
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