The City of Guelph has a rich history of hockey dating back to the 1930s with the Guelph Maple Leafs. Since 1991, though, the Storm franchise has made its mark on the OHL, churning out some top talents and some incredible goaltenders.
We finish off our Top 3 OHL Goaltenders series with a look at the kings of the Guelph Storm crease through their history. To date, we’ve looked at the rest of the teams throughout the OHL’s Western Conference and you can see those here.
The Storm have had a knack of developing pure talent in the crease. It has truly been the backbone of some of their success over the years. Let’s take a look at the top three goaltenders in Guelph Storm history.
No. 3 – Craig Anderson
Guelph brought in Craig Anderson after he had a big 1997-98 season with the Chicago Jets of the MEHL. The Storm had veteran Chris Madden, but bringing in Anderson gave them a nice option for the future.
Anderson spent part of the 1998-99 season with the Chicago Freeze before coming to the Storm. In a backup role to Madden, Anderson sported a .903 save percentage and a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.10. This was a typical “mentor/protégé” situation for the Storm.
In 1999-00, though, Anderson played right with Madden. The team kept both goaltenders and, while Madden played in two more games, Anderson had the lower GAA and higher save percentage. The job was his to lose from here on out.
Madden graduated and Anderson was given the keys to the crease in 2000-01. In 59 games, Anderson won 30 games for the Storm with a career-high save percentage of .918 and a career-best GAA of 2.63.
Anderson was drafted in 1999 by Calgary, but re-entered the draft in 2001 and was picked up in the third round by Chicago. He’s now a mainstay with the Ottawa Senators.
Being part of a duo in net for an OHL team isn’t easy, but Anderson never wavered. When he had the chance, he grabbed the starter’s job and refused to give it up. His stats were rock solid from day one, and he has developed into an elite goaltender. He is deserving of being named the third-best goaltender in Guelph Storm history.
No. 2 – Justin Nichols
Drafted in the third round of the 2011 OHL Draft by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Justin Nichols made the jump to the Hounds in 2012-13 to back up veteran Matt Murray.
In 2013-14, the Hounds brought in young Brandon Halverson and the crease became rather crowded. Nichols was the odd man out and the Hounds shipped him to Guelph for a third-round pick in 2015.
This may have been the perfect move for Nichols, though. Guelph had a team to make a run and Nichols owned the crease. Nichols did everything the Storm asked of him with a GAA of 2.85, a save percentage of .918 and a cool 35-7 record. He also dominated the postseason as Guelph only lost one game per round throughout the OHL playoffs. In the 2014 Memorial Cup in London, Nichols, 5 feet 10 inches and 163 pounds, put up a .926 save percentage on route to a bye to the tournament finals.
It may have been Nichols’ final two seasons, though, that stood out the most. The Storm lost a lot of offence after their run. In 2014-15, Nichols was the key to keeping a spot in the playoffs. Over 59 games, he recorded 34 wins and a save percentage of .907.
During the 2015-16 season, Guelph was in a complete rebuild with just 13 wins and 156 goals scored. Despite a 3-16 record, Nichols still managed a save percentage above .900. He was the glue on the ice.
Nichols had the heart of a warrior. He was everything a team could have asked for in the crease. When the Storm were successful, he was a quiet, unsung hero. During their lean seasons, he ensured no game was easy for the opponent. For these reasons, Nichols deserves the title of number two goaltender in Guelph Storm history.
No. 1 – Thomas McCollum
Guelph signed Thomas McCollum out of Wheatfield Junior B in 2006, hoping he’d learn behind veteran Jason Guy. McCollum forced their hand, though.
During the 2006-07 season, McCollum played in 55 games for the Storm, sporting a GAA of 2.39 and a save percentage of .918. He was that rare 16-year-old goaltender who thrived under pressure. He also earned multiple awards, plus an Under 18 medal for Team USA.
In 2007-08, his NHL Draft year, he showed that his rookie season was no fluke. McCollum won several CHL Goaltender of the Week awards, was named to the CHL Top Prospects Game and was named to the Third All-Star team. While Guelph lost to Sault Ste. Marie in the second round, McCollum’s save percentage of .937 and sub-2.00 GAA were tough to ignore.
The hard work paid off as the Detroit Red Wings selected McCollum with the 30th overall selection in the 2008 NHL Draft. Here’s a video of McCollum preparing for draft day:
McCollum’s final season, 2008-09, saw a big move to a contender. While the Storm were having a respectable season, nobody was beating either London or Windsor in the Western Conference. However, Brampton was having a tremendous season in the East. McCollum was traded to Brampton before the trade deadline in return for two young players and multiple picks.
Jumping from Junior B to the OHL is tough for any 16-year-old. For a goaltender to not only make the jump, but put up elite numbers, and maintain those numbers, is rare. McCollum made waves immediately upon entering the league and showed the attention was justified. His remarkable play is certainly worthy of being named the top goaltender in Guelph Storm history.