Wings' goalie logjam has its benefits
Chris Osgood is the only goalie guaranteed a roster spot.
The Wings have big plans for Howard, a 2003 second round pick. He will back-up Osgood this season now that Ty Conklin signed with St. Louis earlier this month.
The battle between youngsters Larsson, McCollum and Pearce is where things get interesting. McCollum and Pearce are both at Joe Louis Arena this week for the Red Wings’ development camp, which concludes on Sunday.
“I think it’s really exciting,” McCollum said. “There’s a lot of competition. It’s really just going to push everybody to play better and it’s only going to lead to good things for the team.”
McCollum, the Red Wings’ first round draft pick in 2008, posted impressive numbers with the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm and Brampton Battalion during the 2008-09 season: a 34-16-4 record with a .927 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average.
“The big difference year-to-year is strength, especially with a big guy like that,” Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard said. “It’s lower-body strength. I think he had 23 playoff starts last year for Brampton -- his pulse has gone down, he’s more under control. He’s seen a lot of situations where there’s a lot of pressure.”
Prior to April, the goaltending pipeline seemed to be pretty clear: Howard would serve as Osgood’s backup in Detroit while McCollum and Larsson would battle for the starting position in Grand Rapids. However, Wings management signed Pearce, who played at Notre Dame, to a two-year contract in April.
“He’s been very good in the last couple years,” said Bedard, referring to Pearce. “He didn’t play much in his first few years of school but we think he could be a late developer. Obviously, he’s going to be a minor league depth guy to start off, but ultimately the players themselves decide where they are. They decide how hard they work when no one’s watching. It’s a good opportunity for him.”
Pearce, 22, was a candidate for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s player of the year. He posted a strong 30-6-3 record for the Fighting Irish, with a .931 save percentage, 1.68 goals-against average and eight shutouts.
Pearce said he is looking forward to next season, but has a backup plan in mind just in case things don’t go as planned with hockey.
“I was pre-med at Notre Dame and decided to go through with the med school applications,” he said. “I ended up getting accepted at a couple schools, but when the offer came to come up and play in Detroit, I knew I wanted to take a shot at it. So, whenever my career here is done, whether it be two years or 15 years down the road, I know what I need to do to get back (to medical school).”
McCollum, Pearce and Larsson will all compete for a starting role with the Griffins in the fall. The odd man out will likely be loaned to another AHL team.
“I’m trying to get better every day,” said McCollum, 19. “Hopefully I can become the starter in Grand Rapids, and get a lot of playing time there. If not, I’m going to play when I can and just do my best.”
Adam Rice is an intern in the Red Wings' New Media & Publishing Department at Joe Louis Arena.