There were those who suggested Mike Winther might be chosen in the first round of the NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh during the weekend, so he was understandably a tad concerned when most of the second round was completed and he hadn’t heard his name.
“I was definitely a little nervous, but I tried to keep calm. I was just happy to hear my name called,” said Winther, who was taken in the second round, 54th overall, by the Dallas Stars Saturday.
“It feels great. I was waiting for my name to be called and to go to an organization like Dallas is just an amazing feeling.”
Winther, a Trochu native who last season scored 32 goals — including 16 power-play, four short-handed and four game-winning tallies — and collected 56 points in 71 games with the Prince Albert Raiders, said his selection by the Stars is the first step in fulfilling his life-long dream.
“Growing up and watching the draft and stuff, you know you’re just looking to get to this point one day,” he said. “I’ve been working hard off and on the ice and finally made it here. Ever since I was very young I always had that dream of playing in the NHL and hopefully it comes true.”
Winther feels his game at least somewhat resembles the style played by former Star and overall NHL great Mike Modano, who ironically played his junior hockey in Prince Albert.
“He’s a person whom I’ve always wanted to model my game after. He’s a special player,” said the five-foot-11, 170-pound center.
“My skating is probably my biggest strength. I’m a good skater, I have good speed. I also have a quick release, a good shot.”
Winther, who was planning to call his grandparents (“they’ve been huge supporters back home”) later Saturday, realizes he’s probably a few years removed from earning regular employment with the Stars.
“My goal is to make the NHL one day, but I have to get a lot bigger and stronger and my consistency is another thing I have to work on,” he said.
Meanwhile, Red Deer Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak was passed over in the draft despite being ranked eighth among North American stoppers by Central Scouting.
The fact he suffered a serious shoulder injury and missed the second half of the season likely played a major role in Bartosak being ignored.
“Thanks everyone for your support. nothing I can do about it now. just keep fighting, that’s the way,” Bartosak tweeted Sunday from his home in the Czech Republic.
The lone Rebel taken in the draft was defenceman Mathew Dumba, selected seventh overall by the Minnesota Wild Friday night.