It’s not clear whether Mitchell Callahan will ever get a chance with the Detroit Red Wings. But what is clear is he’s doing everything he can to earn his shot.
The 22-year-old right-winger continues to get the job done in his third American Hockey League season, playing a gritty, two-way game and leading the Grand Rapids Griffins in goal-scoring with 19 tallies along with eight assists and a plus-17 rating in 51 games.
All that hasn’t resulted in a call-up to Detroit — at least not yet — but it has helped the Griffins soar to fifth in the AHL with a 30-16-5 record and 65 points.
“He’s a guy who isn’t the fastest, isn’t the biggest, but yet he knows how to play to win hockey games,” said Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill. “His strength is very good. He’s a guy who’s been a very good penalty-killer for us. He’s a winning type of hockey player because he wins puck battles, plays good defense and goes to the net and the hard areas well.”
Callahan, from Whittier, Calif., was drafted out of the Western Hockey League in the sixth round (180th overall) in 2009 after making the Kelowna Rockets as a walk-on. Back then, he wasn’t much of a scorer, but he fought 39 times in his first two seasons before producing 54 points in 62 games in 2010-11 and winning bronze with the U.S. world junior team.
The 6-foot, 195-poundeer slowly earned the trust of Blashill as an AHL sophomore in 2012-13 and helped the Griffins win the Calder Cup with 11 points in 24 games. In the final two rounds, he played a key role and had five goals and five assists in 13 games.
A high-energy player who finishes every check, Callahan plays a simple but effective offensive game. His 150 shots rank 13th in the league and his 19 goals are tied for 10th.
“He goes to the net and he shoots the puck — when you do those two things, you have a chance to score and he’s scored because of it,” Blashill said. “He simply goes to the net hard. He stands in front of the net and screens and when he has the puck on the rush, he shoots it.
“It sounds simple, but a lot of times, it equates to offense.”
Improving his skating would help his cause, as would a little extra strength.
Callahan will lose his waiver exemption in the fall along with Landon Ferraro. If he doesn’t get his chance with the Red Wings, he may get a look with another team. But players of Callahan’s ilk sometimes have to pay a few more dues than others, Blashill said.
“Because Mitch doesn’t have that flashy skill-set, because he’s not 6-foot-3, because he doesn’t absolutely fly, those types of players, in my mind, have to prove it at lower levels on a consistent basis for a longer period of time than others,” Blashill said. “He just has to consistently prove he’s an elite player in the AHL to get that opportunity in the NHL.”
NOTES: Defenseman Marc McNulty (Prince George, WHL) has been a scoring machine lately. He’s got 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points in his past 22 games and eclipsed 100 minutes in penalties. His 16 goals are tied for third in the WHL among blueliners, trailing only first-round picks Josh Morrissey and Ryan Pulock … Left-winger Andreas Athanasiou (Barrie, OHL) had a blow-up game on Thursday, recording five goals and two assists against Niagara, the second-worst defensive team in the league. With 32 tallies in his past 30 games, he’s now hit 41 goals and is tied for fourth in OHL scoring with 80 points in 53 contests … Right-winger Anthony Mantha (Val-d’Or, QMJHL) was named QMJHL first star for the week of Feb. 9. He’s now hit 100 points in 46 games and has a six-point lead on Anthony Duclair in the race for the Jean Beliveau Trophy as top scorer … Defenseman Alexey Marchenko (Grand Rapids, AHL) participated in three events during all-star weekend’s skills competition. He was seventh of eight skaters in the fastest-skater competition with a time of 14.823 seconds, while his 92.9-miles-per-hour slap shot was last among eight competitors in the hardest shooter competition. He was stopped on his lone attempt in the breakaway relay. Meanwhile, he had no points and an even plus-minus in the all-star game, a 7-2 win for the AHL over Swedish Hockey League’s Farjestad. “Alexey did what he normally does,” Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill told MLive.com. “He defended very well and he was efficient with the puck and made good outlet passes and was a really steady influence for our D.” … Winger Tomas Jurco scored the lone goal for Slovakia in a 3-1 loss to Slovenia at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of only two goals for his country in three games. Tomas Tatar has the other … David Pope (West Kelowna, BCHL) has recorded 21 goals in 40 games and matched last season’s point total of 39. He ranks 11th in the league with 0.525 goals-per-game … Defenseman Ryan Sproul (Grand Rapids, AHL) has seen his production slow. He has two goals and three assists in his past 22 games, but 24 points in 50 games overall as an AHL rookie.
Sarah Lindenau contributed to this report.
SKATERS: REGULAR-SEASON REPORT
|Almquist, Adam||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||48||2||31||33||44||-1||89|
|Callahan, Mitchell||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||51||19||8||27||45||+17||141|
|Jurco, Tomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||32||13||19||32||14||+10||91|
|Marchenko, Alexey||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||46||3||15||18||12||+13||33|
|Sheahan, Riley||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||28||8||10||18||10||+1||49|
|Sproul, Ryan||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||50||8||16||24||32||+6||109|
|Glendening, Luke||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||18||5||7||12||18||+8||26|
|Jarnkrok, Calle||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||51||10||17||27||14||+14||84|
|Pulkkinen, Teemu||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||51||19||23||42||26||+15||150|
|Frk, Martin||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||29||1||3||4||16||-12||27|
|Jensen, Nick||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||22||0||0||0||4||+6||12|
|Tvrdon, Marek||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Ferraro, Landon||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||48||12||14||26||33||+1||130|
|Aubry, Louis-Marc||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||17||1||0||1||14||-4||25|
|Fournier, Gleason||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||11||0||0||0||0||+3||6|
|Parkes, Trevor||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||17||1||2||3||13||+1||28|
|Nestrasil, Andrej||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||45||5||8||13||12||-5||48|
|Ouellet, Xavier||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||48||4||9||13||20||+2||61|
|Nedomlel, Richard||Grand Rapids||AHL||PRO||3||0||0||0||2||-2||1|
|Nastasiuk, Zach||Owen Sound||OHL||CHL||50||17||23||40||22||-11||–|
|McNulty, Marc||Prince George||WHL||CHL||57||16||21||37||103||-2||–|
|De Haas, James||Clarkson||ECAC||NCAA||30||3||7||10||14||-13||41|
|McKee, Mike||W. Michigan||BIG-10||NCAA||11||0||0||0||46||0||1|
|Pope, David||W. Kelowna||USHL/JR-A||JR-A||40||21||18||39||18||–||–|
GOALIES: REGULAR SEASON REPORT
|Coreau, Jared||Grand Rapids||AHL||5||0||4||0||0||4.39||.873|
|Mrazek, Petr||Grand Rapids||AHL||17||11||5||1||1||2.30||.918|
|McCollum, Thomas||Grand Rapids||AHL||34||19||9||2||2||2.23||.925|