At long last, all the hard work put in by goalie Michael Houser of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights seems finally to have paid dividends.
The Wexford, Pa., native, passed over by NHL teams during the past three drafts, on Monday reportedly signed an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers. Terms of the deal have yet to be released.
Houser won the Red Tilson Trophy as the most outstanding player in the OHL in 2011-12. He also was the first American-born player and first player from London to be named the Canadian Hockey League's top goaltender. He posted a 2.47 goals-against average, had six shutouts and a .925 save percentage while playing in 62 of London's 68 games.
"His play over the last three seasons can't be ignored," NHL Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He has the potential to have a very good pro career."
Houser played a CHL-high 3,698 minutes last season and tied the OHL record for wins in a season with 46. He helped London win the OHL title and advance to the Memorial Cup championship game. He was No. 16 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies for the 2012 NHL Draft, but went unselected.
"He's very competitive and aggressive and outstanding in breakaways or shootouts," Jensen said. "He has excellent net positioning, is very smart at reading plays and is capable of playing big games and making timely saves."
Houser, 19, came to London as a free agent in 2009-10. He was passed over twice during in the OHL draft, which partially was due to a physical deformity -- a club foot. But that hasn't kept him from starring between the pipes.
In three OHL seasons, he's 93-38-7 with a 2.90 GAA, .912 save percentage and seven shutouts in 141 games.
Houser was scheduled to participate in Winnipeg's development camp beginning Monday, but with Monday's signing, that won't be happening.
In addition to veteran goalie Jose Theodore, the Panthers also have youngster Jacob Markstrom in the fold. Undrafted goalie Andrey Makarov of the Western Hockey League's Saskatoon Blades also was attending Florida's development camp.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale