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Callahan has grit, skills to be a contributor

by Adam Rice / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- Over the past two decades, the Red Wings’ roster has been filled with all-stars and future hall-of-famers like Steve Yzerman, Luc Robitialle, Brett Hull and Sergei Fedorov.

However, Detroit’s fans love their grinders just as much as their superstars – players like Darren McCarty, Bob Probert and Joe Kocur. That’s where Detroit’s most recent sixth-round pick Mitch Callahan comes in.

“I’m actually really excited because it’s been like 11 years since (the Red Wings) drafted a guy like me,” Callahan said. “I’m excited. I hope I get a chance to play here one day.”

His 5-foot-11, 175-pound stature may seem relatively small, but it certainly doesn’t stop Callahan from dropping the gloves with bigger opponents. In 70 games last season with Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, Callahan collected 14 goals and 13 assists with 188 penalty minutes for the Rockets, who lost to Windsor in the Memorial Cup finals. 

Callahan, who will turn 18 on Aug. 17, prides himself on working hard, playing a physical style, and agitating his opponents.

When asked who he models his game after, Callahan replied, “Right now I’m gonna say Darcy Tucker. He was a favorite player growing up. I like his style. I try to play exactly like him – grittiness with a little bit of talent, too.”

Red Wings prospect Mitchell Callahan
While Callahan comes from a place that’s not nearly as hockey-rampant as Hockeytown – he’s from Whittier, California, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles – he doesn’t feel there will be much of a difference in terms of pressure. One of the goals of the Red Wings’ annual development camp at Joe Louis Arena is to get prospects acquainted with NHL culture and instill a feeling of comfort at the same time. It seems that this week’s camp is working for Callahan.

“I think everyone has the same amount of pressure – (everyone) is trying to develop their game,” he said. “They’re not expecting too much from anybody right now.”

It’s this recipe that helped young Red Wings like Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm work their way up to the NHL. Management likes their prospects to be very well seasoned by the time they reach the NHL. They accomplish this by giving the prospects as much time as they need in junior and in the minor leagues to mature into NHL players.

Callahan recognizes that there are aspects of his game that he needs to work on and improve.

“My speed’s not the greatest, my speed and maybe my strength,” he said. “I’m not really that big. I weigh about 175 pounds so I need to gain a little bit of weight.”

Players similar to Callahan have helped the Red Wings greatly. Dallas Drake was a key piece in Detroit’s 2008 Stanley Cup championship as he provided grit and energy throughout the postseason.

“I’m hoping (the Red Wings) will need a guy like me in their lineup,” Callahan said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all but I was pleasantly surprised and I’m glad it was (Detroit).”

Adam Rice is an intern in the Red Wings' New Media & Publishing Department at Joe Louis Arena.

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