The AHL Penguins Need A Third Goaltender

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
With Jeff Zatkoff likely moving back to NHL-backup position, Matt Murray (pictured above) and incoming rookie Tristan Jarry need some competition at the AHL level.
The Pittsburgh Penguins look to be set between the pipes for the 2015-16 season with Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff in the NHL, but at the AHL level the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins need a third goaltender - be it on an NHL two-way deal or an AHL contract - to bring about a goalie competition with returning 2nd year pro Matt Murray and incoming rookie Tristan Jarry.

While a veteran mentor to the relatively inexperienced Murray and Jarry is ideal, getting a third body into the mix to provide some competition is never a bad idea - especially one that wouldn't be hard to send to the ECHL if Jarry does indeed prove he's ready for the AHL next fall.

Enter Michael Houser, a Youngstown, Ohio native entering his fourth year of pro hockey, who wasn't tendered a qualifying offer from the Florida Panthers and hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.

The 22-year-old and former 46-game winner with the London Knights (OHL) went undrafted before being signed to an entry level contract by Florida. He began his pro career in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones in 2012-13, before splitting time between the ECHL and AHL in 2013-14. In his first full season in the AHL last year with the San Antonio Rampage, Houser went 19-9-4 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage including finishing the regular season with a 13-1-2 record in his last 18 appearances.

I caught up with Jameson Olive, formerly of Fox Sports Florida and creator of Olive Hockey, for some insights into why Houser wasn't brought back. The way he describes Houser makes him a perfect fit for what the AHL Penguins need:
Houser was a capable AHL backup in San Antonio last season and was thrust into a starting role after Dan Ellis' emergency recall to Florida. 
He was streaky, but ran more hot that cold down the stretch. That being said, the Panthers don't believe he projected to be more than an AHL starter at best and made the decision to let him walk and see if Sam Brittain can show them more. 
The organization has several mid-level goaltending prospects, but is searching for an heir to Roberto Luongo.
Houser provides a low-risk depth signing for the Penguins to bolster their goaltending depth now that Eric Hartzell has moved on to unrestricted free agency after Pittsburgh declined to tender him a qualifying offer.

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