Austin Watson signs contract with Nashville Predators

Peek-a-boo! Look who's got a pro contract...

Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News brings word that the Preds have signed their 2010 1st-round draft pick, Austin Watson, to an entry-level contract. Much as with Ryan Ellis and other junior hockey prospects, the "clock" on this contract doesn't start ticking until he actually joins a pro league, so don't take this as a sign that he'll play in the NHL soon.

Also, like Ellis, with a January birthdate, Austin is ineligible to play in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals next season, so it would be a choice between NHL and junior hockey this fall, and there's no particular reason to believe he'd be rushed along the development path. Watson's season with the Peterborough Petes just concluded earlier this month with a 9th-place finish in the OHL's Eastern Conference, with him contributing 34 goals and 34 assists in 68 games.

For more on Watson, check out his pre-draft profile page at NHL.com.

After the jump is the press release, including the news that Watson will report to the Milwaukee Admirals on an amateur tryout contract. 

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed 2010 first-round pick (18th overall) Austin Watson to a three-year entry level contract. Watson spend the duration of the 2010-11 season with Milwaukee (AHL) on an Amateur Tryout Agreement.

"The second half of the season he really played well," Poile said of Watson. "He played in all situations and produced in all situations. Not only was he a strong defensive forward killing penalties and blocking shots - things we liked in his draft year - but he produced some very good numbers offensively. All-in-all, it was really good progress for his year for Austin."

Watson, 19 (1/13/92), completed his third Ontario Hockey League season in 2010-11, posting 68 points (34g-34a) in 68 games with the Peterborough Petes. The Ann Arbor, Mich., native tied for 12th in the OHL in power-play goals (14), tied for the club lead in goals, and ranked second on the Petes in points. In 2009-10, the 6-4, 193-pound was Peterborough's nominee for the 2010 Red Tilson Award as the OHL's Most Valuable Player after amassing 20 points (9g-11a) in 10 games upon being acquired from Windsor. With the Windsor Spitfires as a rookie in 2008-09, Watson won both the Robertson Cup as OHL Champion and Memorial Cup.

The oldest of 10 children, Watson has participated in the past two USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camps, and in 2010, helped the United States win gold at the U-18 World Championships, posting three points (1g-2a) and 33 penalty minutes in seven games.

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