DETROIT – Beginning the season as a backup goalie in AHL Grand Rapids, Tom McCollum never imagined he’d get a shot at his first-career NHL win.
Recalled by the Red Wings on Jan. 11 – one day after Jimmy Howard suffered a severe groin injury – McCollum was the second Griffins goalie to be summoned to Detroit as Petr Mrazek had been recalled to replace Jonas Gustavsson who suffered a shoulder injury on Nov. 5.
After spending six games as Mrazek’s backup with the Griffins, McCollum revisited his duties for 10 games at the NHL level last season.
But when Mrazek surrendered three goals on seven shots just 13:37 into a game against the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 18, McCollum came in relief of his fellow goaltender. Cold off the bench, the 25-year-old turned away 7-of-8 shots in 45:54 of work earning the first victory of his NHL career, 6-4, at Joe Louis Arena.
“It’s great for him after the years he’s spent here,” Mrazek said. “He got to have his first win in the NHL. I was really happy for him how the game (went) after I got pulled, so it was great for him.”
A first-round draft pick of the Wings in 2008, McCollum has spent the last six seasons in Grand Rapids. During that time, he has played behind several current Wings players like forward Gustav Nyquist, who was in the lineup that night. McCollum became the fourth different goalie to record a win for the Wings this season, joining Howard, Gustavsson and Mrazek.
“I don’t think a lot of teams can say that but obviously that speaks for itself that we have a lot of goalies in the organization that are really good goalies,” Nyquist said. “I think it’s been a real solid year for all our goaltenders.”
In fact, the Anaheim Ducks were the only other team in the league to have four different goalies get into the win column. That depth provided the Wings with great relief, as they suffered 62 man games lost at the goalie position.
“It’s nice for the organization to have deep goaltenders and I think they’re doing a great job with the goalies,” Mrazek said.
McCollum’s time in Detroit was brief, spending only a month with the team but he managed to leave a lasting impression on his teammates. Nyquist won the Calder Cup in the AHL playoffs with McCollum in 2013, and has seen the Amherst, N.Y., native come a long way.
“I think he’s developed a lot over the years,” Nyquist said. “First of all, great guy, great person, fun to be around and it’s nice to see him get up here and get a chance and obviously did real well and has been playing well down in GR. For the last two or three seasons he’s really taken steps. He’s a great goalie, I’m happy for him.”
With Mrazek spending a significant amount of time in Detroit as both a backup and a starting goaltender, a void was left in net for Grand Rapids. McCollum made the most of his opportunities as the Griffins’ starting goalie with a 2.31 goals-against average and .918 save percentage en route to a 17-10-6 record.
“I think he’s playing great, he’s showing them that he can be a number one goaltender,” Mrazek said. “I feel he has proven himself in the AHL, he is very good.”