Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Michael Houser - London Knights

While this blog is solely reserved for first time draft eligible players, and because every time I visit the John Labatt Center in London someone ask's me about Houser, and because of the many emails I get asking about him, It's time to make an exception.

The 6'2" 195 pound netminder is in his third season with the Knights and had been passed over in the 2010 and 2011 drafts to the surprise of many. After each draft he had been invited to the NHL camps of the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers respectively. He hadn't been signed in time as a free agent and because of his September 13 birthdate, is eligible to re-enter the draft for the third time.

Houser made the birth requirements to be eligible in 2010 by just two days. Being a young goaltender and playing a backup role to number one goaltender Michael Hutchinson made NHL teams skeptical in selecting him in 2010. he did have 25 starts that rookie year and posted a 17-4-4 record with a 3.00 goals against average and a .900 save percentage.

During the 2010-2011 season he was the unquestioned number one for the Knights appearing in 54 games with a 30-19-5 record and a 3.32 goals against average and .904 save percentage. But Houser got his reputation as a money goaltender during the first round playoff loss to the OHL Champion Owen Sound Attack. Although the Knights lost the series, if it were not for Houser's heroics the series would not have lasted the 6 games it did. He had a sparkling 2.71 goals against average and a spectacular .940 save percentage.

But that still didn't get Houser drafted. Which brings us to this year. He's been a workhorse for the Knights starting all their 45 games played but 3. He leads the league in games played, minutes played, wins, shots against, is forth in goals against average and fifth in save percentage. Houser sits 4 wins away from tying the career wins record held by Gene Chiarello, a feat he should accomplish sometime next week.

And while London is the top team on the OHL and is scoring almost at will it seems, one only has to watch to see that Houser has stolen games for them. Many were surprised, some shocked and others upset that he was left of Team USA's roster, or even tryout for the World Junior Championships, including yours truly, but I'm not sure which category I fall under yet.

Houser ranked 22nd among North American goalies in the NHL Central Scouting's latest rankings, eighth among OHL goalies. I don't rank goalies, or players in my rankings that have been passed over before, but if you were to ask me I'd put him in second among OHL goalies behind Malcolm Subban. And if I had to pick one of the available goalies to play a must win, do or die game today, Houser would be my starter.

Whether he gets drafted in 2012 is anyone's guess right now. I believe he will. But if he doesn't, an NHL team will surely pick him up as a free agent shortly afterwards.

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