Tomas McCollum: Budding or a Bust?
The Red Wings assigned goaltender Thomas McCollum to the Toledo Walleyes of the ECHL today, bringing up a huge question in my mind. Does this guy have what it takes to be in the NHL?
I looked at a lot of stats and compared him to other goalies in Detroit's system, and also to goaltenders of the same draft year.
McCollum was drafted 30th overall in 2008 behind only one goaltender, Chet Pickard. Pickard was said to be the clone of McCollum, just a little bit more developed. Nashville chose Pickard, Detroit took McCollum. And look where they both are; the ECHL.
Goaltenders like Anders Lindback, Jacob Markstrom, and Braden Holtby where all selected after McCollum and all have NHL backup jobs (Holtby should have, but the Caps are deep in goal). What if the Wings took Markstrom instead (31st overall to Florida)? He was ranked the top goaltender prospect by THN for a few years now and is going to challenge Jose Theodore for the starting job and eventually I expect he'll take it over during the season.
Three years after being drafted by Detroit, Jimmy Howard was still playing in Grand Rapids. He was also a high pick (second round) in 2003, and in 2006 he nailed down the starting job in Grand Rapids. Now, McCollum could do this during the year if he plays well, but things are pointing otherwise.
Jordan Pearce, an undrafted goalie from Notre Dame, beat out McCollum for the backup job behind Joey MacDonald with the Griffins. Pearce was also with the Griffins more than McCollum last year as well, and posted a winning record on a struggling team (20-15-5); McCollum was 6-12-2. His goals against average is continuously around 3.30, Pearce was 2.89 last season with Grand Rapids.
Should the Wings hit the panic button yet? Definitely not, because they have Ty Conlin this year, and if someone goes down with an injury MacDonald is always a viable backup option. The only thing Wings fans should worry about is a waste fo a first round pick. McCollum is supposed to eventually push Howard for the starting job, and currently it doesn't seem like that will happen anytime soon. First he will have to push for the backup job in Grand Rapids, which is a long way from the NHL.
If the Wings thought he was AHL material right now, he would be there. Why sign Jowy MacDonald again? Because McCollum isn't ready, that's why.
Peter Mrazek is nipping at his heels, while still in the OHL, he has some skills and showed it in the Traverse City prospects tournament.
I don't want to take away from the guy; he has a lot of pressure to perform. Detroit fans chew up every goalie that comes around, no matter how good they are (see Manny Legace, Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, even Howard). Howard played in the NCAA for two years before playing in Grand Rapids, so I'm just going to pretend that these two years are McCollum's free pass. I expect him to get out of Toledo and up in Grand Rapids. He needs to show what he can do and step into a backup role behind Howard in a few years.