Today we're talking about a prospect who has been with the organization for some time, but has only seen one game at the NHL level. That prospect is forward Mitch Callahan.
I'm not very high on him, in all honestly. I think he's an OK prospect, who's grinder mentality is heavily overvalued by many fans, and the organization. That being said, I don't think he's a BAD prospect by any means. If it was up to me, he wouldn't be in the top 15. I feel like there are other names in the system that have a real shot at being top prospects, but their held back by playing over in Europe where we never really get to see them play.
Callahan is a great guy to have in the bottom six, who could have some scoring potential. He doesn't hesitate to get in front of the net, or battle hard for the puck along the boards. He'll hit, he'll fight, he'll do all those fun things. He's gotten a lot of comparisons to Darren McCarty, which I could definitely see in all honesty. He just really needs to work on the off-ice attitude.
Two seasons ago, when the Red Wings were facing a slew of injuries, there were a ton of call ups. Callahan was obviously near the top of the list for earning his first NHL game, but Landon Ferraro got the call before him. Callahan decided it would be a bright idea to tweet "Hard work pays off?" I get it, man.. You're frustrated. You're having a productive season, and you want your shot. The tweet has since been deleted, but I'll never forget it because I found it to be extremely immature. You never saw Gustav Nyquist subtweeting the organization, did you? Either way, that entire situation rubbed me the wrong way. Kind of like when Callahan said he's ready for next season, but not the AHL.
So what kind of player is Callahan? For a long time, he was a penalty minute munching bottom six player, who was used mainly as an "energy" player. He started to develop into more of a scorer in recent years, and saw a lot of top minutes under Jeff Blashill. How much of his production was due to his line mates? I'd like to think that plays a big factor. Anyways, Callahan was on track for an extremely productive 2014-2015 season before going down with an injury that sat him for the remainder of the year. He scored 38 points in 48 games. The year before, he had put up 44 points in 70 games. With his growing production, comes a lot of hype.
There's a great chance Callahan could see time with the Red Wings next season. I wouldn't mind it, I think he deserves more than one or two games worth of a shot. I just don't put a ton of stock into him at this point. The Red Wings are flush with bottom six projected forwards, and unless Callahan comes into camp and lights it up, he's going to find himself down the depth chart.
Here are other thoughts from other great people!
Objectively, Callahan is being touted because of a 44 point output in 70 games in 2013-14. He was improving on that pace through about 60% of a season before injuries last season, but still... 44 points in 70 games isn't that big a deal. Landon Ferraro put up 42 in 70 and he's not really being touted any more than people like him on our fourth line over Joakim Andersson. The leap in Callahan's output at the AHL level coincides with a leap in the quality of teammates he's played with as well. Nobody is really talking about how the possibility of losing Ferraro would be a great loss to the organization so the talk that Callahan potentially getting snagged off waivers should be roughly equal to that of Ferraro... but it isn't.
There are people who literally think Mitch Callahan should be in the Red Wings' lineup over Tomas Jurco
Yeah, he made a dumb mistake with the whiny tweet that he's since deleted, but tweets I've seen from him since then don't indicate that it was an isolated incident, but rather are just a reminder that he's still a dumb kid. The MLive piece that said he didnt' want to go back to the AHL could have very well been just a guy telling the truth. I mean, heck, Gustav Nyquist said he didn't want to go back to the AHL at the same age Callahan said it... but Nyquist phrased it in a way so as to say he didn't want to do it, but he'd accept it and work hard to make it to the big club. Callahan keeps coming across as though he's already put in all the work he needs and now he deserves to be in the NHL.
That may not be accurate to how Callahan truly feels, but based on everything I know about him, I'm confident in saying it's pretty likely that's what he thinks, and I don't like that attitude.
I was torn when ranking Mitch Callahan, because while he has a skill set that could make him a valuable asset to an NHL team, he's also an easily replaced role player. He's a pesty grinder who has a scoring touch, at least at the AHL level and was an Important player for the Griffins until a torn ACL in February ended his season. He's a fan favorite player who's a heart and grit guy and is easy to root for because he's a hard working, blue collar player. The problem I have ranking him very high in prospect depth is twofold.
First, I'm not confident at all that his scoring abilities will translate to the NHL. Take that away and he's much less valuable to the Wings, or most other NHL teams for that matter. In today's NHL there's more emphasis on having skill players who have more grinding abilities, and grinders who bring more to the table than just grinding; they need to be able to kill penalties, or score goals, or fill some additional role. The days of the strictly grinder, the one dimensional player if you will, is quickly being phased out. Callahan's offense at the NHL level is still completely unknown, and I'm certain it would be less than at the AHL level. Most players don't do at the NHL level what they did in the AHL, because the NHL is a tougher league with better players who are harder to play against. I expect a significant decrease is productivity from Callahan in the NHL which further reduces his value to the team.
Second, the grinding, hard working, grit and heart guys are the easiest type of player to replace. A lot of guys aren't highly skilled, but work really hard and will do anything they can to make it to the NHL. Is there currently a need or place for Cally on the Wings? Is there in the next 1-2 years? I'm not sure there is. Could Callahan be more useful than one of the grinders we already have? He's not going to kill penalties, he's not going to be on the power play, and he probably won't score a significant number of goals. The Wings have been a skill focused team for a very long time, and I just don't think there's a demand for Mitch Callahan on the Red Wings right now.
At this point the best thing for him would probably be to go on waivers and be picked up by another NHL team who's more in need of his services. He could be an NHL player but I don't think it's with the Wings. It's just not the best fit, for him or for the team.
It's easy to fall in love with Callahan because he does play hard and give everything to his team. As fans we want to see the blue collar hard working "under dog" player succeed because it's easier for most of us to identify with a player like that. I'm not a highly skilled player, but you bet I work my butt off to try and make up for it, but that only makes up for so much lack of skill or abilities. It's not a knock against Callahan, and I give him full credit for his work ethic and devotion, but objectively looking at the situation from a team/business perspective, I can't justify ranking him very high in the list.
JJ - #11
Graham - #13
Kyle - Not Ranked
Michelle - #9
Jeff - #11
Joe - Not Ranked
Caleb - Not Ranked
Christian - Not Ranked
Prashanth - #14
Lauren - #15
As you can see, in many cases Callahan is just not a top prospect. I personally left him out of my rankings, because I'm more excited to see what other younger players have to offer. Not saying Callahan is a bad player, but he's a fringe bottom six guy at the NHL level.