Metro/John Matisz Michael Houser has finally caught a break. The best goaltender in London Knights history has signed an NHL contract.

It appears Michael Houser has played his final game in the Ontario Hockey League.

The owner of the London Knights all-time wins record has signed with the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League.

“Let’s just say he’s not expected to be back in London,” Knights goaltending coach, Bill Dark, told Metro on Monday.

Houser, 19, was in Coral Springs, Fla., for the Panthers’ summer development camp July 2 to July 6. He is currently declining media requests as his agent, Paul Capizzano of MFIVE Sports, continues to work out contractual details with Florida management.

After NHLers Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen, and Jacob Markstrom, the Panthers goaltending depth chart is thin, which will help Houser turn pro immediately, Dark says. He’ll likely play for one of two affiliate teams — the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League or the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League — in the fall.

Since the 2009-10 season, Dark has worked closely with the undrafted OHLer hailing from Wexford, Pa. And while his dominance in the OHL certainly didn’t come over night, his mentor knew Houser’s burning desire would pay off one day.

“One of the things I did see from the beginning was how he had the ability to win hockey games,” Dark said. “He refused to lose.”

A 2011-12 campaign for the ages (46 wins, a .925 save percentage, and six shutouts in a 62-game regular season) and the hardware to back it up (awarded both CHL goaltender of the year and OHL most outstanding player trophies) still wasn’t to convince scouts and executives at last month’s NHL draft.

In Pittsburgh, 30 NHL teams took a pass on Houser for the third consecutive year.

“If I had a dollar right now for every time someone asked, ‘How did Michael Houser not get drafted?’ I’d be rich,” Dark said.

It remains to be seen what kind of trickle affect this will have on the Knights roster moving forward. Making a trade for a stud goaltender seems imminent, as Dark said it doesn’t look like any of the current back-ups could succeed in the starting spot.

Replacement options

  • Tyson Teichmann, 19: 2011-12 for Knights, Erie Otters: 21 GP, 2-16, 5.10 GAA, .871 SV%
  • Jake Patterson, 18: 2011-12 for Knights: 6 GP, 2-2, 1.85 GAA, .929 SV%
  • Liam Herbst, 15: Has not played an OHL game

*This post also appears in Metro’s July 10 print edition

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