The New York Islanders have dipped into the undrafted free agent waters, but this one isn't an NCAA kid. They've signed physical Owen Sound winger Mike Halmo to an entry level contract.
Halmo's scoring has increased each season in his OHL career, and his points and goals have roughly doubled this season, but you must couch his latest figures -- he's their leading scorer this year -- with the context of playing in the OHL as an overager.
A left-handed shot listed on the OHL site at 5'11" and under 200 lbs., Halmo brings the grits. (And the fights: 480 PIM in 245 career OHL games.) He was one of several contributors to Owen Sound's OHL championship last season -- which they won in a Game 7 in MIssissauga at the expense of potential future teammate Casey Cizikas.
Though not on the Clear Day list for Bridgeport, his late signing means he could join the Sound Tigers after his "other" Sound team is done with its season. (The Owen Sound Attack are again playoff-bound in the OHL.)
The blog OHL Prospects last month listed Halmo as the top underafted over age free agent in the OHL. (Yes, that's mild praise, but you add useful pieces where you can find them.)
More specifically, that OHL Propects blog described Halmo like so:
Halmo has always been one of the most feared hitters in the league. He's also been the type of player who constantly walks the line between clean and dirty, has seen his share of suspensions, and driven opposing fans to the point of anger. But if he's on your team, you love him.
His offensive game really took a big step forward last year playing with Andrew Shaw and the two of them were dynamite in the Attack playoff run to the OHL championship. This year, he's improved even more and currently sits 3rd in the league with 36 goals scored. While I don't anticipate him to be a league scoring champion at the next level, he looks like a solid energy player for an NHL team in the future.
Evidence of that line would be here, in this hit and ensuing fight with David Broll:
And here's a leaping interference hit on a player who no longer had the puck, which earned him a five-game suspension. Halmo also had an 8-game OHL suspension last season for a head check to Brock Beukeboom.
Consider this at minimum as adding a Micheal Haley-ish or perhaps even a Matt Martin-like presence to Bridgeport, with a healthy dose of you-never-know. By giving Halmo an entry level contract -- giving him one of the 50 possible slots on the NHL contract list -- the Islanders obviously hope Halmo has a chance of making the NHL one day as well.
If he does, the hope is that he adapts his hits to stricter enforcement, the way Matt Martin has done so impressively this season.
Halmo Hit on Yakupov
[UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: And what do you know? Halmo was tossed from tonight's game against the Sarnia Sting, receiving a five-minute charging major and game misconduct for a hit on top 2012 draft prospect Nail Yakupov. Ironic.]
UPDATE II: Here's video of the hit. As I'd heard on Twitter, Yakupov definitely dipped forward heading into the hit. There's obvious head contact but if I were the OHL's Shanahan I'd look seriously at the old "sudden change just before the hit." Just one angle, but looked to me like Halmo was heading into him square and tucked. This time: