WHL Prospect Watch: Feb 20

Niederreiter, Cunningham, Johansen Bring Playoff Berth

Portland Winterhawks forward Nino Niederreiter scored three times — the second hat trick of his WHL career — and assisted on another to lead the Winterhawks to a playoff-clinching 6-3 victory over the Chilliwack Bruins on Saturday night.

Columbus Blue Jackets 2010 first rounder Ryan Johansen and Boston Bruins forth rounder Craig Cunningham each added a goal and an assist to Niederreiter’s (New York Islanders) hat trick.

Cunningham leads the Winterhawks in points with 73 (22 goals, 51 assists), while Johansen and Niederreiter have 66 and 47, respectively. Johansen’s plus-33 rating leads the team while Niederreiter’s nine powerplay goals are tied for the most on a Winterhawks team that leads the WHL’s Western Conference and features more drafted players than any other club.

Howden Earning Hardware

Florida Panthers prospect scored four goals on Friday night and notched another on Saturday as his Moose Jaw Warriors split a home-and-home series with the Prince Albert Raiders.

Warriors head coach Dave Hunchak gave glowing reviews of his star forward’s performance on Friday:

“I was really proud of how (Howden) responded,” Hunchak told the Moose Jaw Times Herald. “He played the game with his feet moving, he won a ton of foot races using his speed to his advantage and he shot the puck. For him to be our go-to guy on our team, that’s what he needs to do.

“He played well and I thought his linemates played well for him and did a good job of getting him the puck. Obviously he scored four goals and was the difference in the game.”

On Monday, the WHL and CHL both named Howden Player of the Week as he scored five goals and had four assists in three games last week. The 19-year-old forward picked up his first career hat trick last week in his third full season in Moose Jaw.

The 25th-overall selection in last year’s draft ranks fifth in the WHL in goals (38) despite playing in only 48 games due to the time he spent representing Canada in the IIHF World Junior Tournament. No player among the top eight in the league in goals has played in less than 55 games.

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