After being passed over in last month’s NHL draft in Pittsburgh, former St. Charles School student Michael Houser has a big-league affiliation.
Wednesday, Houser, who was the Ontario Hockey League’s most outstanding player this season, signed a entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers. The contract covers three years.
Houser, whose father, Dr. William Houser, is an allergist in Boardman, says he does not intend to return to the London Knights.
“The plan is to play pro hockey this fall,” Houser said Thursday. “I’m excited and honored to live out my dream. This has been my goal for a long time.”
Houser, 19, won the Red Tilson Trophy after recording a 46-15-1 mark. He was the first American-born player and first player from London to be named the Canadian Hockey League’s top goaltender.
“The OHL provided me with great experience and competition,” Houser said. “It’s a great league up there and I really enjoyed my time in London, but I’m excited to see what I can do with the Panthers organization.”
Ten years ago, Dr. Houser and his wife, Monica, moved their family to Wexford, Pa., because Michael, his sister Shannon and his brothers Nick and Alex were all playing youth hockey in the Pittsburgh area.
“We were going over there at least three times a week,” Houser said of the travel. “It got to be a little too much.”
Years ago, Houser spent one season in the USHL then joined the OHL’s Knights for three seasons.
Over the past year, he tended goal 85 times for the Knights who won the OHL championship then advanced to the Memorial Cup final where they fell 2-1 in overtime to the Shawinigan Cataractes. He posted a 2.47 goals-against average, had six shutouts, with a .925 save percentage.
The Panthers also signed defenseman Josh McFadden from the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.
“Michael and Josh competed very hard at our development camp last week and both players demonstrated that they deserved contracts with our club,” Dale Tallon, Panthers general manager, told nhl.com. “We look forward to watching both players grow and develop within our organization.”
Houser played in a Canadian Hockey League-high 3,698 minutes last season while tying the OHL record for wins in a season with 46.
McFadden, 21, has spent the last three years playing for the Wolves. Last season, he scored 41 points including 15 goals in 47 games played.