...the Nashville Predators select Austin Watson, right wing from the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. Head over to the SB Nation NHL hub to review how the Mock Draft has gone so far.
On the surface, fortune has favored the mock Predators. At 6'3 and 187 pounds, Austin Watson could stand to add some bulk, but that will come with age - he's 17. Watson excels in the hard areas of the ice, never shying from a battle in the corner or taking a beating in front of the net. Watson is considered one of the top penalty killing and shot blocking prospects in the 2010 draft class, and projects to be a 60 point NHL scorer in the mold of Ryan Kesler. He wasn't given much of a chance to display his offensive talents while with Windsor (home of Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, and Zack Kassian), but the move to Peterborough (20 points in 10 games) brought out some tantalizing scoring and playmaking ability.
Essentially, Austin Watson appears to be made for Nashville Predators hockey. His superb defensive ability and above-average scoring potential makes him one of the more 'can't-miss' prospects in the draft, particularly considering the system Barry Trotz employs.
After the jump, words on Watson from various scouting services and news outlets.
First, via SBNation's Anaheim Ducks blog Anaheim Calling:
-Character Actor. In terms of a well-bred role player, you can't ask for more than a Memorial Cup and a U18 Gold Medal. Add his size to that, and his basement value at the next level is nothing to scoff at.
-Potential Energy. He's starting to show some serious skill as a scorer and a playmaker up the middle with the Petes. Projecting his end-of-the-year numbers onto next season, he could be a monster of a complete player.
Next, Bleacher Report:
"Austin is a very good penalty killer," one scout said to NHL.com. "He plays a high-energy two-way game. He's aggressive on the forecheck and he will finish his checks. He has good hands and can shoot the puck hard. He is an excellent competitor and is a good shot blocker. I like his energy and willingness to play a role and be good at that role. He is an excellent penalty killer and defensive player, but he has also shown good offensive puck skill and some playmaking ability.
Watson doesn't have many glaring weaknesses. As stated, once he gets bigger and stronger, his physical two way play will improve. Time and conditioning will take care of that. Watson's value as a top half first round selection hinges on his ability to take his offensive game to a higher level. He appears to be in a good situation with the Pete's for that to happen in that he will be surrounded by talented teammates such as Ryan Spooner and Matt Puempel next year. If he can develop into a 50 - 60 point NHLer while leading the PK and providing great two way play, Watson will be well worth a top 15 pick.
Finally, from NHL FanHouse:
As Watson grows into his big body, he'll become a tougher player for opponents to deal with. He already has a willingness to do whatever it takes, as evidenced by his work on the penalty kill in the CHL Prospects Game back in January. He turned heads there, and he'll turn more heads in pro hockey.
What say you, Predator fans? Is Austin Watson the type of player David Poile should invest a high pick in, or should Nashville go after a more high risk/high reward choice such as centerman Quinton Howden or defenseman Jon Merrill? I don't necessarily know the answer, but if Watson does indeed fall to no. 18 on draft day, the Preds would do well to take a long, hard look. Scoring wingers with this sort of defensive upside aren't exactly a dime a dozen.