Goalie learns of life after flop

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Thomas McCollum knows what many thought of his world junior flop.

Just another United States underachiever who mangled a medal haul in Ottawa.

But that's not how the Red Wings looked at it. The defending Stanley Cup champs, who drafted the big goalie with their first-round pick last year, delivered a lesson in rebound control to their young prospect.

"Detroit told me you're even more one of us now then you were before because you've gone through this adversity," the 19-year-old from Sanborn, N.Y., said. "They said you're part of the family."

They drew McCollum closer and gave him a hurdle to climb. A point to prove in the second half of this OHL season with the Brampton Battalion.

And the message was absorbed quickly when delivered by the Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer. No one knows bouncing back better than the former defenceman who suffered cardiac arrest during an NHL game four years ago.

"The world juniors were a positive experience," McCollum said. "Things don't always go the way you want them to but you can learn from them. I probably would've liked to play better and have a couple of shots back but there are some things you'll never forget, like playing in front of 21,000 people and they're all booing you."

He's hearing no jeers from the Battalion these days. Since a surprising trade from Guelph at the deadline last month, he's ripped off 10 wins in 13 games, with three shutouts.

"It took about two days (to fit in)," McCollum said. "One good thing was there were four or five of us all new to the room so that helped and Patrick (fellow Troops goalie Killeen) has been great and so accommodating to me."

Once again, McCollum isn't the team's big star. Cody Hodgson, who just reeled off a 23-game point streak, is the top Trooper. In Guelph, Drew Doughty was the eye of the Storm.

"You can throw Ryan Parent (with Guelph in 2006-07) in there too," McCollum said. "Those guys are all so cool. Nothing seems to rattle them out there."

That's a theory why he struggled in Ottawa. McCollum hadn't been used to defensive breakdowns in a tight Guelph system, but the Americans surrendered several odd-man rushes during the tournament.

His trade value wasn't hurt because the Storm weren't interested in moving him. Only after Windsor and London beefed up late did Brampton GM Stan Butler's call to the Storm spark a deal.

"There's a definite difference in the Eastern Conference," McCollum said. "The West is more dump-and-chase so I don't get to play the puck, which I love to do, as much anymore."

But the big test will be stopping it if the Battalion meet front-running Belleville and standout goalie Mike Murphy in the playoffs.

"To be the best, you have to beat the best and I look forward to that challenge," McCollum said.

The Wings, as always, will be watching.

Around the O

London's John Tavares said in Kitchener he'd buy dinner for the teammates who assisted on his 200th OHL goal. Knights Michael Del Zotto and John Carlson are thinking steakhouse . . . The Owen Sound Attack have played in 17 games decided by overtime or shootout. They have only won three of them . . . The Windsor Spitfires need to win 10 of their final 11 games to become the first OHL team with 60 victories in a season. They're 9-1 in their last 10 and have won seven straight, so it's within reality's realm . . . Kitchener's rebuild won't be long. First-rounder Jeff Skinner has 22 goals this season, including 11 in his last seven games . . . What happened to getting more offence into hockey? The OHL could very well end up with no 100-point scorers this season. Tavares is the best bet to get there and likely the only 50-goal scorer to boot . . . Teams nobody wants to draw in the first round of the playoffs right now -- Plymouth, Erie and Barrie . . . No team has been ravaged by injuries like the Ottawa 67's this month. But there they are, still third in the Eastern Conference with wins in six of their last 10 . . . Late in Monday's loss to London, Guelph GM Jason Brooks threw out what will one day soon be the best line in the OHL -- Peter Holland, Taylor Beck and Michael Latta . . . Erie had a five-game shootout winning streak snapped Friday in London.

Ryan Pyette is a London Free Press sports reporter. ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


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