The Checkers moved to solidify their goaltending situation with the addition of Tom McCollum on Wednesday.
McCollum, who the Checkers acquired on loan from the Stockton Heat, is a 27-year-old veteran of 227 AHL games with Grand Rapids and Stockton, during which time he has posted a 104-91-13 record, 2.78 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
He has played sparingly this season, however, appearing in just one AHL game with Stockton – a relief appearance in November – while the rest of the games went to Calgary Flames prospects Jon Gillies and David Rittich. He also played five ECHL games with the Adirondack Thunder, most recently on Feb. 25, going 3-1-0 with a 2.97 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
In a corresponding move, the Checkers assigned rookie Alex Nedeljkovic to the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. The team also swapped forwards with Florida on Wednesday, assigning Mitchell Heard to the Everblades and recalling Clark Bishop.
McCollum provides veteran experience at a time when the Checkers are without All-Star netminder Michael Leighton for an indefinite period. Including the game in which Leighton was injured on Feb. 17, the Checkers have allowed an average of 4.1 goals in their last nine games. They have conceded at least four in each of their last four outings, including a season high of seven in their most recent contest against Bakersfield on Sunday.
Prior to this season, McCollum, who will join the Checkers for back-to-back games in Manitoba starting Thursday, became the Griffins’ all-time leader in games played, minutes played and saves made and is a three-time winner of the team’s Man of the Year award for outstanding contributions to his community. He led the Griffins with a 2.42 goals-against average and .923 save percentage last season before going on to play in seven of their 10 playoff games.
A first-round draft choice (30th overall) by Detroit in 2008, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound native of Amherst, NY, has played three career NHL games with the Red Wings, earning his first career victory during the 2014-15 campaign.
Should he play for the Checkers, McCollum would become the sixth goaltender to do so this season, joining Leighton, Nedeljkovic, Daniel Altshuller, C.J. Motte and Eddie Lack. Nedeljkovic, who played in six of the Checkers’ nine games since Leighton’s injury, is 8-14-1 with a 3.40 goals-against average and .881 save percentage with Charlotte this season.
Bishop, a rookie who has four points (2g, 2a) in 20 AHL games with the Checkers this season, returns after posting 11 points (3g, 8a) in 21 ECHL games with the Everblades. Heard, who has three assists and 53 penalty minutes in 32 games with Charlotte but has missed the last six games due to injury, will join the Everblades for the first time.