You can call Mike Halmo many things – just don’t call him undrafted.
“Everyone says I’m undrafted, but I’ve been with this organization for three, four years now so I feel like I have been a draft pick,” Halmo said. “To come here and learn what I have has been a tremendous experience and I look forward to continue learning and building with this team.”
Halmo bloomed late onto the scene, scoring just 80 points total in his first three years of junior hockey with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League before exploding for 85 points (40 G, 45 A) in 66 games in his final season. That’s when the Islanders came looking for him and signed him in March 2012.
“Going into my last year with Owen Sound, I wasn’t really expecting much,” Halmo said. “I just wanted to be captain and play my best. I had a really good year, coach [Greg Ireland] gave me a lot of opportunities, put a lot of trust in me and I ended up signing with the Islanders.
“To give me a contract, [the Islanders] obviously showed trust in me and I want to reward them back. I want to be the best player I can be and I want to get better everyday. I want to reward them by making this team, getting up here and helping them win.”
Much like his Owen Sound days, Halmo worked his way up through Bridgeport and earned first-line minutes for most of last season. Playing primarily alongside 2011 fifth-overall pick Ryan Strome and former Notre Dame captain Anders Lee, Halmo put up 38 points in 56 games. Then, he got the call of a lifetime.
“I don’t think I was really expecting the opportunity coming into my second year,” the Waterloo, ON, native said “I worked hard throughout the year and to get the call was an unbelievable feeling. Then to play the rest of the season with the Islanders was a tremendous experience and I look forward to learning from that experience and getting better from it.”
He finishes hits, he stops in front of the net, he plays with an edge and he makes the right plays with the puck at the right time. - Brent Thompson
Halmo stuck with the Islanders, playing a physical brand of hockey over a 20-game stretch. He made an impact on his first NHL shift, laying a big hit on Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel, to bring Nassau Coliseum to its feet. He scored his first NHL goal on Apr. 1 against the Florida Panthers, batting his own rebound out of the air and past Scott Clemmensen.
Halmo earned his NHL opportunity by giving 100% on every shift and doing the little things. In short, he’s a coach’s dream.
“He’s a very detail-oriented player,” Sound Tigers Head Coach Brent Thompson said. “He finishes hits, he stops in front of the net, he plays with an edge and he makes the right plays with the puck at the right time. Coming into this year, there are high expectations for him and we’ll see where he goes from there.”
In addition to his outstanding work ethic on-and-off the ice, Halmo is considered one of the best locker room guys by most of his teammates.
“He’s always got a comment for everything,” Strome said. “He’s pretty witty and quick on his feet. We’re good buddies, we like to get into it a bit and he keeps the room light, that’s for sure.”
Halmo insists he isn’t forcing himself to be outgoing and that his presence in the room is not an act. He’s just being himself.
|Mike Halmo poses with the puck from his first NHL goal on Apr. 1. |
“He’s a great kid all around,” Thompson said. “He’s a great kid off the ice, he’s good in the locker room and he works hard in the weight room. He’s definitely one of the young leaders. He’s well-liked and I think it stems from his work ethic, both in the weight room and on the ice.”
As far as this year goes, Halmo isn’t looking too far ahead. Right now, he’s just excited to be back at the rink.
“I just want to get back at it, Halmo said. “It was a long summer and the last three weeks of it I was getting sick of working out and going to the gym everyday. I just wanted to get back on the ice. The number one thing for me is looking forward to getting back to competing and battling on the ice.”
You can call Mike Halmo many things. The Islanders call him a steal.