Is this the season we see 2010 1st-round pick Austin Watson don the Predators Gold? - Harry How
The condensed 2013 regular season schedule is likely to test the depth of every NHL team, and Nashville's minor-league club in Milwaukee will continue to play a major role in their success.
Mueller has the benefit of experience, having served as a depth call-up for the last two seasons. Back in December 2010, the Predators were a mess:
Injuries have stricken 5 of their top 6 forwards, a top-pair defenseman in Ryan Suter, and their #1 goaltender, Pekka Rinne, causing all of them to miss significant playing time. Now we also have Jordin Tootoo entering the NHL's Substance Abuse Program, taking away another regular contributor for an indefinite amount of time.
At center, Matthew Lombardi had been out since the second game of the season, and David Legwand was on the shelf as well, so the Preds hastily signed Mueller (who was on an AHL contract with Milwaukee) and promoted him for 15 games that season. He held the fort down admirably at the time, notching only 3 assists but distinguishing himself by playing a safe, hard-working type of game that helped Nashville weather the storm.
Last season he played four games for the Preds in a similar role, and was rewarded with a new contract last summer. He currently leads the Milwaukee Admirals with 12 goals and 87 shots on goal through 34 games, and would appear to have the inside track on a center spot in Nashville should the need arise. Based on reports earlier this week out of Milwaukee, he's expected to attend Preds training camp in a few days.
A 3rd-round draft pick in 2009 (selected two spots after Taylor Beck), Latta has developed steadily during this, his second full season with Milwaukee, and has the makings of an agitating, physically aggressive forward. He's the 2nd-leading scorer on the Admirals this season with 5 goals and 16 assists, but also leads the way with 102 penalty minutes. If the Predators had a need for a depth-line banger, Latta might prove to be the appropriate choice.
Check out this short video, in which Latta catches Edmonton's Jordin Eberle (playing with their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City) with a nice hit as the opportunity presented itself:
Watson was Nashville's 1st-round selection in 2010, and spent the last two seasons wrapping up his junior hockey career (which included a spot on Team USA in the 2012 World Juniors) before joining Milwaukee full-time this fall. The Predators have no need to rush Watson along the development path, but despite this being his first professional season, he's off to an excellent start. With 12 goals, he's tied with Mueller for the Admirals' lead, and certainly doesn't seem shy about heading to the front of the net:
So which of these three Milwaukee Admirals centers will suit up the most for Nashville this season? Let's have a poll...
Which of these will play the most games in the NHL this season?
Michael Latta (26 votes)
Chris Mueller (118 votes)
Austin Watson (60 votes)
204 total votes