TRAVERSE CITY -- A year ago, all eyes were on Thomas McCollum as he arrived in Traverse City for prospects camp as the top draft pick for the Detroit Red Wings.
This year, that distinction has been passed on to Landon Ferraro. But, attention being paid to McCollum as he continues to take steps towards becoming the Red Wings goalie of the future.
"This time around it's really to prove that I belong here and earn a spot in Grand Rapids," McCollum said. "I'm just trying to play well and take care of my business when I get in games."
After leaving training camp last September, McCollum returned to Guelph in the OHL, but was later moved to Brampton -- a team he led all the way to the OHL Finals.
McCollum also represented the United States in the World Junior Championships.
"We drafted him in the first round; we liked his potential," Wings GM Ken Holland said. "He came to camp last year and we thought he had a real good camp. He goes back and has a real good year in the OHL, plays for the United States in a tough World Juniors and didn't play as well as he would have liked. He came back and had a tremendous second half in the OHL."
While gaining game experience, McCollum also spent the last year working on his technique and fundamentals.
"The past year I really spent a lot of time working on my skating, trying to get quicker in the net," he said. "I also worked on trying to play a little bit further out of the crease, that's one thing (Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard) has really talked to me about. It was one of things I felt like I tried to chip away at in practice every day."
McCollum said Bedard would be on the ice working with him a couple of times a week during the year.
"It was always nice to get that good work in," he said. "He really puts us through the paces."
As a member of the Red Wings family, McCollum said it was exciting to watch Detroit's run this last year to the Stanley Cup Finals, where Pittsburgh beat them in seven games.
"When you get to know guys like that, it's always fun to watch them succeed," McCollum said. "I think when the team does well, it sort of bodes well for the rest of us and kind of gives us that extra motivation to work harder. We know if we play well, we will have a chance to get in those situations in a few years."
While the future looks bright for McCollum, he isn't the only net-minder on the Wings roster for prospects camp with a big upside.
Jordan Pearce comes to Detroit after a banner career at Notre Dame. He led the Irish to the NCAA title game and a Sweet 16 appearance in his final two seasons as the program began to gain national recognition under coach Jeff Jackson.
"It was just a very amazing experience to see the transformation from my freshman year all the way to my senior year where it is now," Pearce said. "It's going to be a nice memory to go back there and know that I helped get the program started."
Pearce holds school records in season and career wins, but also stood out in the classroom. He finished with a 3.816 GPA while double-majoring in anthropology and pre-med.
"Really, I went there for the combination of both," Pearce said. "It was getting to the point where I knew I would probably get a scholarship to go play hockey, but school has always been very important in my family. I really wanted to get the best combination of academics and athletics."
While Pearce's academic success will no doubt open doors for him in the future, right now he's pushing ahead with professional hockey.
"I grew up as an Avalanche fan, so Detroit wasn't always at the top of my list," Pearce said. "But I always had a lot of respect for Detroit. Obviously it's a great franchise and it's a great honor to be a part of it."
Prior to training camp, Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard are expected to be the two goalies on Detroit's opening day roster while McCollum and Larsson are projected to be in Grand Rapids. Pearce could end up in Toledo this season.
"There's a lot of great goalies in the organization, all the way through, from Osgood down to me," Pearce said. "It's going to be a battle, but I really can't be disappointed wherever I end up. It's out of my control, it's the guys upstairs making the decisions. The only thing I can control is how I perform and how I practice on a daily basis."
Prospect camp schedule
Schedule for this week's NHL Prospects Tournament at Centre ICE arena in Traverse City:
MONDAY, SEPT. 7
2:30 p.m.: Minnesota vs. Dallas
3 p.m.: N.Y. Rangers vs. Atlanta
6 p.m.: St. Louis vs. Columbus
6:30 p.m.: Detroit vs. Carolina
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 8
3 p.m.: Dallas vs. Columbus
3:30 p.m.: Atlanta vs. Carolina
6:30 p.m.: St. Louis vs. Minnesota
7 p.m.: Detroit vs. N.Y. Rangers
THURSDAY, SEPT. 9
2:30 p.m.: 7th-place game
3 p.m.: 5th-place game
6 p.m.: 3rd-place game
6:30 p.m.: Championship game