As two of the top-ranked defenseman dropped out of the top 10 in this year's NHL Draft, speculation naturally turned towards whether David Poile would scoop up another budding blueliner for the Nashville Predators.
In the end, however, he selected forward Austin Watson from the Peterborough Petes with the #18 pick. Many of the prospect rankings had him slightly above the 18th-spot, so this can be considered a solid value pick. Let's give it up for an Ann Arbor boy (where I lived for 9 years). And also give it up to Chris Burton, who selected Austin with this pick in the SB Nation Mock Draft.
Follow after the jump for a look at your newest Nashville Predators prospect...
There have been a number of articles looking at Watson as a prospect. This, from Hockey Wilderness:
Watson is known for his versatile two-way game, blocking shots and playing the penalty kill, but he exploded offensively when he was traded to the Petes where he scored 20 points in just 10 games. He is a power forward that can protect the puck and plays a fearless, energetic game. He also uses his stick effectively, boasting a solid shot and creating scoring changes with close-to-the-net opportunities. Watson will have to spend time in the juniors, adding more weight to his frame and polishing his offensive skills.
From Die By The Blade:
The Good - Watson is a player that is mature beyond his age. He is a natural born leader. He is a very good player in all three zones and really understands the game in the defensive zone. He is a fearless player that will sacrifice his body to make a play. He is willing to go into the dirty areas that create opportunities and gives 110% on every shift. He is Patrick Kaleta with some size.
The Bad - His offensive abilities don't translate well to the pro game. He will likely be a third or fourth line player that contributes 10-15 goals a season. He lacks vision and creativity with the puck. While he is fast enough and good enough skater to carry the puck, he is much better away from the puck.
Watson is two-way talent who is not afraid to sacrifice his body to make a play. he is a heart-and-soul forward that any NHL team would love to have on the roster. Watson isn't just a plugger, though, as he has some offensive skill in his arsenal.
From Anaheim Calling:
The Spitfires won the Memorial Cup that year, but Watson wasn't a featured player. His performance drew comparisons to NHLer Jordan Staal i.e. a high-compete forward who found a niche in the game's dirty minutes. Staal is a rather facile analogue, but it's not an unfounded comparison. Watson was playing on a team with a lot of top-end skaters, a situation that can force even great players into niche roles, and so he became known as a shot-blocker and a penalty killing specialist.
It will be interesting to watch Watson get a full season under his belt in Peterborough, to see just how well he can prosper as a featured player there. Nashville fans should get a chance to watch Watson in action during next month's Development Camp, scheduled for the second week in July.
ESPN's Scott Burnside filed a nice background piece on Watson, and interviewed him right after the pick:
The following press release comes from the Nashville Predators:
With the 18th selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Nashville Predators selected Peterborough Petes (OHL) forward Austin Watson on Friday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. At 6-3, 185-pounds, Watson is an aggressive, two-way forward who saw his stock soar after a mid-season trade from Windsor to Peterborough, where he amassed 20 points (9g-11a) in 10 games.
"We're really happy with the draft," Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile said. "We were really happy to get Austin. He's certainly a Predator-type player, doing all the little things to help your team win. He's got leadership qualities, and he's been compared to (2010 Selke Trophy finalist) Ryan Kesler in Vancouver. If he's anything close to that, we'll have had a very good day at the draft."
The 2010 Draft marks the fourth time in the last five years Nashville has used its first pick of the draft on an American. Watson, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., helped the United States to a gold medal at the 2010 Under-18 World Championships, posting three points (2g-1a) in seven games.
"His strengths are his size, and his compete level," Predators North American Amateur Scout Jason Bukala said. "He's a very competitive player who scores, kills penalties, blocks shots. He has really no weaknesses in his game. He's got a well-rounded skill set that will complement our group moving forward. He has the potential to put up significant points as well. This is definitely a need we wanted to fill."
Watson started his Ontario Hockey League career playing with Predators 2009 first-round pick Ryan Ellis on a Windsor club that won the 2009 Memorial Cup as Canadian Hockey League Champions and Robertson Cup as OHL Champions. Watson posted 29 points (10g-19a) in 63 games for the Spitfires in 2008-09, then 34 points (11g-23a) in 42 games with the club in 2009-10 prior to his trade to the Petes.
The 14th-rated North American skater by Central Scouting Services and 12th-ranked skater by International Scouting Services sustained an ankle injury just three games into his Peterborough career, sidelining him for five weeks (Jan. 16-Feb. 26). He posted seven goals in his first five games upon his return to the lineup, and finished off the regular season with a six-point performance (1g-5a) on March 13, 2010 vs. Oshawa.
Watson, the oldest of nine - and soon to be 10 - kids, played six seasons in the Detroit Compuware program which also produced the likes of Eric Lindros, Pat LaFontaine, Brian Rolston, Mike Modano and David Legwand.
Rounds 2-7 of the Entry Draft continue tomorrow at 12:00 a.m. CT (broadcast on NHL Network) with the Predators holding five more selections: No. 78 (third round), No. 126 (fifth round), No. 168 (sixth round) and Nos. 194 and 198 (seventh round).