He’s one red-hot Raider.
Trochu product Mike Winther is the current Western Hockey League player of the week, and for good reason.
The Prince Albert Raiders second-year centre registered 10 points — including eight goals — and a plus-2 rating in four games and is riding a six-game goal-scoring streak in which he’s tallied 10 times.
To make a short story even shorter, Winther is living up to the lofty expectations of being a first-round bantam draft pick — sixth overall by the Raiders in 2009.
“Yeah, the last few games have been going well for me. I’ve been working pretty hard and our line has been clicking and we just have to keep it going,” said Winther.
The former Airdie Xtreme bantam and UFA Bisons midget AAA star was named third star of last Sunday’s 5-0 win over the host Red Deer Rebels, a game in which he scored twice while skating on the Raiders’ No. 1 line with Justin Maylan and Brandon Herrod.
“We’ve been the top line for the past few games. We’ve been contributing quite a bit,” said Winther.
“And our team’s overall work ethic has been up there the last few games.
“We just have to stay disciplined and stick to structure and the little details and we’ll have success.”
Winther played with a powerhouse Xtreme squad — a team that featured sniper extraordinaire and current Portland Winterhawks star Ty Rattie — during the 2007-08 Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League season, putting up 62 points (29g,33a) in 32 regular-season games.
Then, in his bantam draft year, he potted 40 goals and collected 63 points in 32 outings. Winther moved on to the midget AAA Bisons in the fall of 2009 and rang up 30 points (14-16) in 28 regular-season games and another 13 goals and 22 points in 14 playoff contests.
Last season, his first with the Raiders, he notched nine goals and added a single assist in 61 games.
Well, he’s closing in on a point-per-game pace with 30 (18-12) in 36 outings.
“Last year I was just getting used to the league . . . getting accustomed to living away from home and the pace of the game,” said Winther.
“This year I’m a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident too. So it’s going well.”
The five-foot-11, 170-pound centre has been cast in an offensive role in his sophomore season.
“It was tough getting used to the speed of the league last year, it’s quite a bit faster than bantam and midget.
“Plus, I was playing a different role than a goal scorer,” he said. “But this year I’m taking on a bigger role and contributing more to our success.
“That’s the biggest thing — patience. As a first-year player, you can’t get too upset with your ice time, you have to stick with it. Patience has paid off for me and I’ve been hungrier this season.
“Last year I wasn’t getting all that much ice time and this year they’ve put me in a bigger role and I’m just trying to take advantage of my opportunity.”
Winther’s timing couldn’t be better. If he continues to improve and put up decent numbers he’ll definitely hear his name called in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Last month, Central Scouting ranked Winther ninth among WHL skaters available for next year’s draft.
If he continues to produce at a reasonable rate he could be selected in the first three rounds.
“The draft is on mind a little bit, but you can’t worry about that too much,” he said. “That will care of itself. You just have to go out and work hard every game.”
Raiders head coach Steve Young sees Winther as a skilled and willing student.
“He came into the year with some goals and by getting off to a good start and then getting ranked by Central Scouting . . . that really helped his game,” said Young.
“In saying that, he continues to work hard, he knows which aspects of his game he has to improve to become a better player.”
Rumour has it you can’t teach talent.
“When a player comes in with that type of skill level, that’s huge. Knowing what else he has to do to take the next step is another big plus and he’s making a big effort at becoming a better all-around player,” said Young,
“There have been some ups and downs for him but he’s fought through the down times. That’s been a big plus for him and that’s why he is where he is now.”