Last week it was announced that the Florida Panthers had signed free agent invitee, goaltender Michael Houser to an entry level contract with the club after an impressive showing at the Panthers developmental camp. Houser as you may recall and read here, is a very special young man who has had to overcome a birth defect to get where he is today. I had the chance this past weekend to chat briefly with independent goaltening scout Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild about Michael. Justin also wrote a piece on Michael Houser this past Saturday for NHL.com.
Justin’s answers are his own, and I think that between these few questions, and the article that he did for NHL.com, you’ll see that Michael does have a chance to succeed. However he will most likely have to work harder than his competition, but that appears to be something that he’s already used to.
1) As we have learned the Florida Panthers have signed 19 year old goaltending prospect Michael Houser who was born with a birth defect (club foot). As someone who studies goaltenders, how hard must it be for someone with this condition is it to perform, and do you see anything that would hinder his ability?
Well, first let me say that it’s important for fans to realize that while Michael had 13 surgeries on each foot to correct the issue, he actually hasn’t had a surgery since he was 12 years old. So although the structure of his ankles and feet are not perfect, I don’t think his ability to stop the puck is hindered all that much. He achieved great success at the major-junior level, so he clearly has the ability to also succeed at the pro level. That being said, it will be a much tougher hill for him to climb in order to have similar success at the ECHL, AHL and of course the NHL levels. I know that he doesn’t run the sand win games, he’s just as capable as any other goalie out there. There will always be some physiological limitations to what his smoothest or skate with a perfectly fluid stride — there is some choppiness there — but when it comes time to do his job, what his ankles and feet can do in terms of agility and flexibility, but at the end of the day, he stops the puck, and that’s all that really matters.
2) How would you describe Michael’s goaltending style, and is there a particular area that surprises you about him?
3) Michael has a stellar record in the OHL. How is it that he’s been passed over 3 times?
To be honest, I have no idea, and now that he signed with Florida, it doesn’t matter anymore. It does makes sense why he wasn’t drafted in the first year of eligibility because he wasn’t as promising back then. But to be passed over in this most recent draft — especially after he earned the OHL Most Valuable Player award and the OHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year awards — made no sense to me at all. I think most scouts would agree with me when I say he was always touted as a late-round pick, but being passed over completely was a surprise. I know he has proven to other NHL scouts and teams that his previous condition didn’t really affect his performance in games, but his reputation within the scouting world is something he can’t really control. He showed a lot of poise and patience sticking with his game through it all, and finally, it paid off after a stellar showing in Florida’s development camp. I really liked the fact they invited him to camp and signed him to an entry-level contract without using a draft pick on him. It turns him into a low-risk, high-reward asset for the Panthers organization.
4) Dealing with his medical issue and with having to hear constantly that he may not make it, I’m sure his mental strength is severely tested. Do you think he uses that as his prime motivation, and can he be good enough to succeed?
5) Are there any areas of his game so far that need improving? Things like lateral movement, ability to recover quickly, or positioning?
6) Your honest opinion here, and of course we won’t hold you to it. What do you see for Michael’s future? Does he have a legitimate chance to be an NHL goaltender, despite what some may call a severe handicap?
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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