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Callahan finds ‘winning’ formula on farm

Published Monday, February 17, 2014, 10:13 a.m. under 2013-14 RWC Reports
Mitchell Callahan

Mitchell Callahan (Credit: Mark Newman)

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 “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.


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
Parkes, Trevor Toledo ECHL PRO 27 17 17 34 20 0 106
Frk, Martin Toledo ECHL PRO 15 5 8 13 10 -11 27
Nicastro, Max Toledo ECHL PRO 45 0 15 15 22 -11 91
Nedomlel, Richard Toledo ECHL PRO 35 6 6 12 90 -3 54
Tvrdon, Marek Toledo ECHL PRO 22 9 4 13 6 -8 59
Aubry, Louis-Marc Toledo ECHL PRO 18 7 7 14 10 -4 62
Jensen, Nick Toledo ECHL PRO 3 0 0 0 0 -2 4
Mantha, Anthony Val-d’Or QMJHL CHL 46 49 51 100 61 +22 245
Hudon, Philippe Victoriaville QMJHL CHL 44 16 7 23 59 -2 94
Athanasiou, Andreas Barrie OHL CHL 53 41 39 80 46 +20
Nastasiuk, Zach Owen Sound OHL CHL 50 17 23 40 22 -11
Bertuzzi, Tyler Guelph OHL CHL 29 10 25 35 49 +9
McNulty, Marc Prince George WHL CHL 57 16 21 37 103 -2
Wheaton, Mitchell Kelowna WHL CHL 43 5 20 25 28 +22
Tvrdon, Marek Kelowna WHL CHL 15 5 4 9 14 +1
Janmark, Mattias AIK SEL EUR 39 17 11 28 54 -8 93
Backman, Mattias Linkoping SEL EUR 48 5 14 19 12 +23 58
Melen, Hampus Tingsryds SWE-J20 EUR-JR 11 0 5 5 14 -6 17
Bodin, Rasmus Linkoping SWE-J20 EUR-JR 14 0 2 2 2 -3 5
De Haas, James Clarkson ECAC NCAA 30 3 7 10 14 -13 41
Marshall, Ben Minnesota BIG-10 NCAA 28 3 11 14 52 +6 54
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


Paterson, Jake Saginaw OHL 37 19 15 2 2 3.45 .907
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
Coreau, Jared Toledo ECHL 12 1 8 3 0 4.34 .864
McCollum, Thomas Grand Rapids AHL 34 19 9 2 2 2.23 .925
  1. BuckFeta says:

    Evan, you missed the best fighters on the team: Franzen (always fighting a slump), Helm(always fighting the injury bug), and Howard, who this year has been fighting the puck almost every game.

  2. Huss says:

    No offense, Evan, but I consider it a good thing that you can’t seem to find one “regular fighter” on this roster. Take a look around the NHL – the better teams are all starting to catch on with the Wings philosophy of making sure every roster spot goes to a contributor – and having one or 2 guys out there to “fight” is just not on a successful teams agenda. You might think it is, but last I checked, spending lots of time in the penalty box, earning instigator penalties, and contributing nothing offensively is not what I want from an NHL player. Enjoy all that nonsense in the AHL and lower leagues.

    I care more about finding a goal scorer than a guy who “stands up for himself.” (as if that is a somehow quantifiable statistic) I would love to see Callahan called up sometime for that reason: Not because he can fight, but because he can do that while scoring a decent amount of goals and playing solid defense. He’s Babcock’s wetdream of a 4th liner – and you can bet your arse he’s going to tell him to cut down on the fighting crap in the big leagues.

  3. John P says:

    The Wings philosophical change away from fighting and even heavy, hard hitting has gone too far. Their star players are more at risk for injury because they have been left unprotected. It’s simple. If you have to answer to another player when you take cheap shots then they are less likely to do it. Do you think players would go after Datsyuk the way they do now if he had Lucic on his line? It’s not about using a roster spot for someone who only fights, but rather having some tough players who have both the skill to play in the NHL and the ability to drop the gloves or fight for a spot in front of the net. To be a great NHL team you need a mix of players. Some fans are holding onto the past. The Wings used to be the class of the NHL and they always seemed to be one step ahead of the rest of the NHL. That is no longer the case and teams are not copying what the Wings are doing.

    The vast majority of fans also like tough physical play and also enjoy a good fight. If you watch games where there is a lot of tough physical play and/or a good fight you will see the fans are a lot more excited and rowdier than the fans of the less physical teams. The fans at the Joe today look like they are in a coma compared to the fans from the 90’s. Turn someone like Callahan loose and let him play his game and you will see the fans come alive. Some say the crowd is more white collar and that might explain their distaste for any type of hooliganism. Give them their glass of wine and let them enjoy something that looks more like a ballet than a hockey game.

    As far as Callahan. He should have been given a chance to play some of these games instead of Glendening. Callahan’s production and his work ethic should be rewarded. If he fails he fails, but he deserves a chance. The same goes for Ferraro and any other borderline NHL player running out of options. Their performance and production couldn’t be any worse than what the Wings have gotten out of Glendening.

  4. Graham says:

    Callahan, Smith + Franzen for Yandle. Make it happen Kenny!

  5. Patrick says:

    I dunno… before Franzen got injured he was doing great… had 17 points in the 16 games before his injury… as for Smith, yeah, he is under performing… but he is young… Defenseman generally don’t stand out until they are in their late 20’s…

  6. Huss says:


    The majority of what you just said is total conjecture. I mean, now you’re equating how rowdy our fans are compared to others because of the amount of fights our team participates in? Callahan is going to bring the Joe crowd to life? Oy. That horse you’re beating has been dead for years. Scoring and skill win hockey games and bring fans into the seats. Not fights. You’re diving into a chocolate factory of hypothetical’s at this point.

  7. Levi says:

    I do not understand everyone’s obsession with having a fighter. Unless it is someone like Lucic then they are one dimensional and useless. Seriously Bissonette, Scott, Tootoo, Parros,Aaron Downey all useless in today’s hockey game. I do think Callahan needs shot but we need top 6 guys not bottom 6 we have an overload of them. If Callahan can be a consistent 15-20 goal scorer in the NHL then good if not he is just another grinder and if that’s the case then trade him.

  8. Levi says:

    I know Downey is retired but just making a point.

  9. Bob says:

    I think people are getting confused because the Wings are in a place we’re not used to as a borderline playoff team. Because of that we can’t be sitting here focusing on developing guys in the NHL by bringing them up to see how they’re progressing. We need to win hockey games, so they’re have to put the best line up possible to make that happen. One game can be the difference. I think the answer to why we haven’t seen Callahan yet is in the article above; he needs to work on his skating. There a lot more people than just Holland and Babcock making decisions here, Blashill has a ton of input on who is called up. If he doesn’t think he’s ready, then i’d rather him develop in the minors. You don’t want to bring him up and ruin his confidence. And just because he’s scoring down there doesn’t mean he’ll do the same with the Wings. Sure, he’s playing a 3rd-4th line role and still producing, but then he’s also going up against a bottom defensive pairing. And Emmerton is practically a point per game player with the Griffs, does that mean we should run that experiment again?

    I have nothing against Callahan, people just need to temper their expectations and see the bigger picture.

    And a final question, Chicago has only one more fighting major then the Wings, should they be out hunting for a “fighter”, too?

  10. craola says:

    Bob, you’re using way too much reason and fact in your post. I can’t handle this. There’s a discussion board for that kind of stuff.

  11. Huss says:

    If Chicago had more fighters who gritted them to victory with their grittiness and can-do attitudes, they could have won TWO Stanley Cup’s last year.

    C’mon, Bob. You know this.

  12. Patrick says:

    what is Andrew Shaw? Bryan Bickell? Brandon Bollig? Mike Kostka? Marcus Kruger? Michael Handzus? Sheldon Brookbank? no they dont all fight a lot, but they are physically demanding on other teams… Even though they aren’t hitting them, going through them takes more work than most other teams… plus their top 6 play almost every minute of every game….

    other than that… great post, I wish there were more people on this page that made sense…

  13. Evan says:

    No offense taken at all, Huss, others. People make reasonable arguments on this board and that makes for a good debate. First, I did say I was ambivalent about fighting. I used to enjoy a fair, spontaneous fight more, but it’s hard to ignore the damage these guys are receiving. Who know? Maybe fighting will be banned within a generation. There are three reasons though why I don’t like the Wings unlaterally disarming. First, while having a guy who can thrown them in the lineup as a regular doesn’t prevent all cheapshots, you have to believe it gives guys pause. Bobby Orr makes this point pretty well. Like John said, having a Lucic (or Shanahan or McCarty) type riding shotgun might tend to make opponents more careful in how the play against Dats, Z, or anybody. No it’s not complete deterrence, but if you knew one of those guys would come after you with ill intent, it’s common sense it would make some difference. And that difference could be avoiding Cowen’s hit to Datsyuk, Gudas’s gloved punch to Franzen, etc. A couple of pretty costly injuries to major players.
    Second, knowing a guy has your back helps teammates play with more confidence. You hear players talk about everyone playing two inches taller and twenty pounds heavier when someone’s looking out for them. Third, standing up for each other helps team chemistry and morale. Yes, the Wings are usually determined professionals as it is, but when guys stand up for each other, it helps create chemistry and sense of everyone being in it together. Look at how many times the Wings-Avs brawl is cited by players as being that extra ingredient. And maybe it doesn’t count for much, but it’s plain demoralizing, as a fan, seeing players you’ve followed for years, getting pushed around with no response.

    I’m not a fan of John Scott, or his ilk. But there’s a reason Buffalo added him to their roster: Boston was absolutely abusing the Sabres — not even their goalie was off-limits. If you watch the teams play, since his signing, the Bruins are always on their best behavior.

    Mitch Callahan isn’t very big and I don’t want or expect him to fight all the time if he gets a chance with the Wings. I doubt many of us would be talking so much about him if he hadn’t put up so many goals this season. I’m also not saying: put him on the roster now! I’m just wondering if Ken Holland will give a guy like Callahan a chance. I do think a mix of players is a benefit. Yes, they’ve gotta be able to skate and play defense and show some skill. But some size and toughness helps, too. And yes, Chicago has plenty of those guys. Quality of fighters matters more than number of (attempted) fights. Take a guy like Brandon Bollig: an intimidating fighter who created some room for himself and is now getting a chance to show what else he can do. As long a virtually every other team in the league has guys like that and — and guys who play dirty, the Wings need a couple guys who can fight, too. (Sorry for the giant brick of words)

  14. BuckFeta says:


    Please refrain from personal attacks against posters.

  15. Patrick says:

    All the stuff that gets said when I say something questionable to me, and you say I need to refrain? Laughable Quick Launch

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