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Passed over three times, Houser finds home in Florida


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Michael Houser authored an exceptional story of perseverance when he signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers on July 11.

Shortly after his name went uncalled in last month's draft, Florida invited the 2012 Ontario Hockey League Goaltender of the Year to their development camp.

Knowing this was the break he had been waiting for, Houser told the Panthers he was coming not to occupy empty space, but to earn a place on the depth chart.

Displaying the focus and intensity he had during the OHL playoffs, and with an excellent showing in the camp's final scrimmage, Houser proved to the Panthers he was a hidden gem.

He was so impressive, in fact, they simply couldn't allow him to go to the Winnipeg Jets' development camp. Florida locked him up by offering the 19-year-old a pro contract.

"I talked to my agent pretty quickly after the draft, and there were a couple of teams that wanted me to come to their development camp," Houser said. "We sat down and figured out which team had the best situation for me, and we decided that Florida had the best opportunity. I wanted to go there and earn a contract, not just fill a net and take shots. They understood that, and so I went down there and played pretty well, and everything came together for me."

Houser was born with bilateral club feet. With numerous doctors saying he would struggle to walk, much less play competitive sports, the native of Youngstown, Ohio, endured 15 surgeries on each foot in the first three years of his life, then two more when he was 12, to correct the issue.

To say he overcame long odds during his midget and junior career (with Little Caesar's, then with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League) would be a colossal understatement.

He not only achieved surprising success at those levels, but he continued to improve all the way through the major-junior level with the London Knights. He stuck with his slightly unorthodox skating and puck-stopping approach, brushed away the naysayers, and capped his OHL career by leading London to within one win of the Memorial Cup title a few months ago.

nhl.com

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