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Prospect adapts to NHL surroundings

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
McCollum, the Red Wings' first-round draft pick last month, makes a save during Day 2 of the team's prospects camp at Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday.
DETROIT -- When first round draft pick Tom McCollum took the ice for the Red Wings prospects camp, he looked like it was second nature to him. It might have been because he was already wearing a mask with an octopus painted on. However, with the word ‘Manny’ painted on the back, it was clear that the goalie mask wasn’t his.

The top-rated goaltender in last month’s draft showed up for his first skate with his new team, without a proper functioning helmet. McCollum said his mask was damaged during an Ontario Hockey League game with Guelph, where he plans on returning to next season.

“The last game I played in Guelph with my black mask I got hit in the nose with a shot from (Kitchener defenseman) Yannick Weber,” said McCollum after practice Tuesday morning. “And it dented it, so my nose sticks out of the cage now.” 

Before taking the ice on Monday, McCollum received his first coaching lesson from goaltending coach Jim Bedard, the man who helped prepare last season’s Jennings Trophy winning tandem of Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek.
“When I got here, Bedard didn’t want me to lose part of my nose, so he gave me Manny Legace’s old mask,” said McCollum, referring to the Wings former goalie. “So I’m just kind of working through playing with that right now.”

McCollum should be able to handle wearing someone else’s mask until a new one arrives.  The 18-year-old was the second goalie chosen last month, after a stellar season with the Storm. He posted a 25-17-3 in the regular-season, with four shutouts; he also won five postseason games.

However, goaltending wasn’t always McCollum’s forte. He was playing defense for his squirt hockey team until they ended up needing a new netminder.
It’s definitely unbelievable, especially with all the big names that have come through Detroit and all the players that have developed through their system. Just being out there is amazing. - Wings' first-round pick Tom McCollum

“Actually, when I was playing squirt minor our goalie quit in the middle of the game, he just left halfway through the third,” McCollum said, laughing. “We came back to practice two days later and our coach said he’s not coming back, does anybody want to volunteer to try it? Everybody kind of turned and looked at me, because when I was a defenseman I was always diving and blocking shots anyways, so I said I might as well give it a try.”

McCollum said his parents weren’t thrilled with his decision at the time.

“They weren’t too happy about it, but they decided they would let me try,” he said. “And then I told them the next year I really wanted to be a goalie, they shook their heads and said, ‘well if you really want to.’ ”

Now, the native of Amherst, N.Y., is part of a Stanley Cup champion organization.  McCollum said that skating at Joe Louis Arena is an experience he will never forget.

“It’s definitely unbelievable,” he said, “especially with all the big names that have come through Detroit and all the players that have developed through their system. Just being out there is amazing.”

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