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Knights of Note: Houser and Griffith

February 11, 2012

Thursday night’s win brought a couple of milestone for the Knights. A 5-0 shutout over the rival Windsor Spitfires marked undrafted goalie Michael Houser‘s tying of London’s franchise record for regular season wins at 84. He leads the league in wins (38), minutes played and is top five in every other category. The 19 year-old workhorse has been everything the Knights could ever want in goal. His steady, veteran presence bolsters a primarily young team and keeps them in every game.

House of Pink, London Knights - DEREK RUTTAN/The London Free Press/QMI AGENCY

On Friday’s ‘House of Pink’ night in support of breast cancer, Houser hung tough to post a win over a tenacious Plymouth Whalers team. The Whalers came back from a 6-3 deficit after two periods to make a game of it until Brett Welychka iced it with an empty net goal. The 8-6 victory over the team chasing them for top spot in the OHL gave Houser his 85th win and sole possession of the Knights’ all-time regular season wins record over Gene Chiarello (96-00).

There are 16 games remaining on the Knights’ schedule, including today’s game against Kitchener. There are three 3-in-3 days sets and the others are 3-in-4 days, so it’s unlikely that Houser will start them all, but it isn’t unrealistic to think he’ll get in another 12-14. With an outside shot at returning for his overage season, Michael Houser has plenty of time to boost his record total.

Coming in a bare second to Houser’s win on Thursday, was the hat trick from another undrafted 19 year-old, Seth Griffith. The team’s leading scorer may fly under the radar with the big-league scouts but other junior teams are fully aware of what Griffith brings to the ice every night. His third goal of the night jumped him one ahead of Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67’s for the league goal-scoring lead.

On Friday, Griffith was no slouch, posting another goal and an assist to keep him neck and neck with Toffoli, who scored two in the 67’s loss to the Guelph Storm. Despite owning the top spot in the OHL as well as the CHL for most of the year, the Knights have only three players in the top 20 for league scoring: Griffith (3), Vladislav Namestnikov (13) and Greg McKegg (19, over half of which were with the Erie Otters). Both Namestnikov (Tampa Bay, 1/27) and McKegg (Toronto, 3/62) are NHL draft picks. As a London Knights and overall hockey fan, it is difficult for me to understand the reasons these two kids have gone undrafted.

At 5’11”, Griffith is a smallish forward that plays well at both ends of the rink and in all situations (13 PPG, 7 SHG).  He’s the go-to guy – just ask the rival Owen Sound Attack who would prefer Seth just stay home when they play the Knights. Griffith has 2 overtime winners and a shootout winner in the season series against the Attack. He’s not the best skater, but he’s feisty and can certainly put the puck in the net.  Having attended Tampa Bay’s prospect camp last year, I’m hoping he’s caught the eye of a scout somewhere this year.

The Knights have been blessed with good goaltending in the past few years, even if they weren’t up with the league leaders. Michael Houser is in step with this trend. He plays big in the net, is outstanding on breakaways/penalty shots/shootouts and can steal a win when the offence goes cold. Passed over in the draft, he’s had looks from both the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers. Cheers to a team that will take a chance on the solid goalie from Wexford, Pennsylvania. Pick him, he’s a gem.

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