Fighting Words: Callahan Hopes for Stronger Sophomore Season in Grand Rapids

Jordin Tootoo may not have been a popular signing among Red Wings fans, but Mitch Callahan was excited to see the abrasive forward land in Detroit.

“In the next couple of years he can be a mentor to me,” Callahan said. “We play the same style. He likes to get under peoples skin and  he’s a smaller guy fighting the bigger guys.  Hopefully he can give me some tips on what to do against the bigger guys. I think it will be awesome to have him around.”

The 6-foot, 190 pound winger is coming off his first professional season with Grand Rapids of the AHL. Callahan was limited to just 48 games of action due to injuries as well as sitting a few games as a healthy scratch. He managed to scored 6 goals and 9 points while also registering 103 penalty minutes.

“For my first year I thought I played well and I learned a lot,” he said. “Of course I had my ups and downs and I was a healthy scratch for about five games. You don’t ever want to be a healthy scratch, but it makes you work harder so you don’t get pulled out of the line-up.”

Despite his limited number of games played, the gritty winger still managed to drop the gloves 14 times. Callahan’s services were called upon more frequently later in the season after Greg Amadio was traded to Springfield.

“Fighting in the AHL was a little different than fighting in junior,” he said. “In junior I was the stronger guy, but now I am fighting against men. I was fighting outside my weight class a lot and when Amadio was traded I had to do it more. I just had to step it up.”

The 20 year-old payed the price after fighting 6-foot-2, 195 pound Eric Selleck of the San Antonio Rampage near the end of the season. Callahan was on the losing end of that bout and lost the remainder of his season to concussion symptoms that lasted well into the summer.

Callahan in the dunk tank on Bryan Rufenach day. “I didn’t want to chirp too much because it was mostly kids throwing the ball,” he said. “I didn’t want them to take it to heart.”

“I don’t think I threw a punch against Selleck,” Callahan said. “The concussion made me take it slow early this summer. I feel fine now, but I didn’t want to push too hard and have the symptoms come back.”

With his health back on track, Callahan recognizes that he’ll need to get much stronger to continue to compete in the AHL. At the same time he’s working on improving his overall hockey skills so that he can contribute on a nightly basis and not just in an enforcement role.

“I need to get stronger,” he said. “I don’t want to be a guy that other players just throw around. I also want to work on my skating and my puck skills so I can be more comfortable with the puck on my stick.”

The Whittier, California native is excited for his sophomore season with the Griffins and he has high hopes for this years edition of the team. Callahan, who is planning on rooming with fellow Californian Max Nicastro in Grand Rapids, believes that the teams three year playoff drought could finally come to an end this season.

“If you look at it now we have one of the best rosters on paper coming into the season,” he said. “But we need to go out there and show it every night and fight for that playoff spot. I have never played for a team that didn’t make the playoffs until last year. It was hard and I don’t think anyone liked missing the playoffs so that will only motivate us more coming into this year.”

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