TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. --
The chances that goalies Jack Campbell
of the Dallas Stars
and Thomas McCollum
of the Detroit Red Wings
earn NHL roster spots with their respective teams this season are slim to none.
Not that the two U.S.-born goalies aren't good, but patience long has been the virtue when it comes to grooming goalies.
Campbell, of Port Huron, Mich., was taken by the Stars with the 11th pick at the 2010 Entry Draft, while McCollum, a native Amherst, N.Y., was taken by the Red Wings at No. 30 in 2008. The two faced each other in the opening game of the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament on Sept. 11 and McCollum, the more poised of the two at this stage in their careers, earned a 6-1 victory behind 17 saves.
After allowing three goals in the opening six minutes of the game, Campbell settled down to finish with 32 saves, including 14 in the second period.
"It's pretty tough to let something like that roll off my back because I was really excited for that start and I was really prepared and worked so hard this summer," Campbell said. "I wanted to give the team the best chance to win and I got out there and was a little bit too excited. I think it showed a little bit."
"We don't put anybody in there we don't think is ready to get it done at the NHL level. We don't choose a certain time and say, 'Bang, he's got to be ready.' We just stress to them to have a good day today and tomorrow, and hopefully these days lead to something good."
-- Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard
Therein is the reason so many general managers would prefer to see their young goalies learn the ropes in junior hockey or the minor leagues before tossing him to the NHL wolves. This season, the expectations are for Campbell to spend the season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, while McCollum is expected to return to the American Hockey League with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"I think (Campbell) is in a good place in Windsor," Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk
told NHL.com. "That's where he'll be. We don't want to move him along too quickly. He's on the right track and he's an impressive kid. We are now pretty deep on the goaltending position, with Kari (Lehtonen), Brent Krahn
, and Tyler Beskorowany
turned pro, and Richard Bachman
, who played some games in the AHL last season. We have a stable of goaltending where we don't have to rush Jack by any means."
It's a path McCollum already is on. The 20-year-old struggled to adjust to the style of play in the AHL last season, going 10-16-2 with a 3.48 goals-against average and .881 save percentage as a rookie in Grand Rapids.
"There's a huge difference between major junior and the AHL," McCollum told NHL.com. "Things just happen that much quicker and it's mostly the releases the guys have. Most of the guys in the league are pretty big guys, capable of flying, and they've got that quick release that makes you do things that much quicker. I'm really looking to play a lot more consistent this year, put in a ton of good starts and hopefully get a lot more wins."
Detroit goaltending coach Jim Bedard has been pleased with McCollum's work ethic and drive to be the best he can be. Bedard met with McCollum twice a week in July and August in St. Catharines, Ont., to work on conditioning.
"It was all about positioning, recovery and moving your feet," Bedard said. "Matt Ellis
of the Buffalo Sabres
came out and shot with us all summer, and it was great because it was an enclosed area, so it was good for Thomas' hands and footwork."
"We don't put anybody in there we don't think is ready to get it done at the NHL level," Bedard continued. "We don't choose a certain time and say, 'Bang, he's got to be ready.' We just stress to them to have a good day today and tomorrow, and hopefully these days lead to something good."
Much like it did for Detroit's current starting goalie, Jimmy Howard
, who spent four seasons in Grand Rapids before finally getting his shot and starting 63 games as an NHL rookie in 2009-10.
"Over the last couple of years we've really ramped up the power-skating portion of skating for our goalies in training camp and now we've incorporated that with the other goalies in the system," Bedard said. "You got a guy like Tom, he's big (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and big guys take a little longer to get their feet up to speed with what goes on. He takes up a lot of the net, but you not only need to stop the puck but recover quickly. He's already mentioned that things have slowed down for him as compared to last year."
McCollum's summer sessions with Bedard did just that.
"It really helped me control everything, and at the same time helped me get a lot quicker and better bounce on the ice," he said.
It's the same drill Campbell has started in Dallas with goaltending coach Mike Valley
"Mike has taught me so much already," Campbell said. "I'm really looking forward to working with him in Dallas. He's a great mentor for me and has taught me how to be a pro off the ice, as well."
Campbell is an optimist, but also a realist. He stood out for the U.S. National Team Developmental Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., last season, going 6-3-1 with a 2.21 GAA and .917 save percentage in the USHL. He also was in goal when the U.S. beat Canada in overtime for the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.
"I'm not looking days from now to make the Dallas Stars
, or three years from now," Campbell said. "I'm just trying to work hard every single day and trying to be the best goalie and teammate I can be. Wherever I wind up, whether it's Dallas or Windsor, I'm excited and just want to do the best I can to help the team."
Stars prospects coach Glen Gulutzan had nothing but rave reviews for Campbell.
"What I can really comment on is his ability to compete and how close he's already getting with his teammates," Gulutzan said. "He's just a likeable guy. Not only is he a good goalie, but the team wants to play for him because he gives you everything he's got at all points. That stuff just rubs off on the rest of the group, and that's another intangible he has. He took some serious rubber in his first start (against the Red Wings), and there were quality shots. He made some great saves and some he'd probably like to have back, but the sign of a great goalie is the ability to come back and I have all the confidence that he'll do that."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale