One of the hottest prospects in the WHL over the last two months has been Prince Albert Raiders forward Mike Winther.
I've seen Winther a ton over the last year and a half and I have been known to be fairly hard on him. Last season on a fairly mediocre Raiders club I felt he didn't step up and fill the role that he needed to. He never did enough to jump out at me.
But, he's taken the next step in his development this season and really showing me what he can do. He's got average size at 5'11 but he has great speed and the ability to beat people off the rush.
To go along with his game breaking speed, he's got great puck skills and an excellent release on his shot. He's showing more improvement in his decision making, hockey smarts and play away from the puck, but those are all areas of his game that he still needs to work on.
The biggest knock I have against him right now is really his lack of size and strength. To start this year he weighed in at only 170 pounds and I doubt he's gained much since then. He consistently gets knocked off the puck along the boards and I've seen him struggle trying to defend bigger and stronger opponents. Will this be a longterm problem? I don't think so, but it is a current concern.
As far as pro potential, I like the offence that Winther brings. The way he plays the game, I think he would suit the pro game better as a winger than a centerman, but I still think he has time to learn more about playing the game up the middle. I personally have him ranked to go somewhere in the third or early fourth round of the NHL draft, but I think there will be several teams who like him more than I do.
If he continues to play well and provide goal scoring to the Raiders, I could see a team taking him inside the top 90 of the 2012 NHL Draft.