The Nashville Predators almost let go of Watson last year, but then re-sign him this offseason. Can he continue to prove his value in Nashville?
Austin Watson was almost not a part of the Nashville Predators organization. He was sent down to Milwaukee after last year’s training camp and exposed to waivers. Any NHL team that wanted him could have had him. Nobody did, so he went to Milwaukee. He didn’t stay there for long, as he ended up appearing in 77 of Nashville’s regular season games.
Watson’s impact was felt most during the postseason. Postseason games are more physical by nature, and he thrives in that type of environment. He had the most hits of anybody in the Stanley Cup Playoffs & was one of the men that stepped up to the plate when Ryan Johansen went down to injury. He tied with Colton Sissons for the team lead in points after Johansen got hurt.
Watson went from nearly being off the team to being an important part of it. At 25 years old he’s still got plenty of time to grow. What can we expect from him in 2017-18?
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The Michigan Wolverine
Watson hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He didn’t go to the University of Michigan, but one could describe him as a Wolverine. Wolverines scratch and claw to get to the top, and that’s exactly what Watson had to do to establish himself as an NHL regular.
Ok, the Wolverine comparison isn’t perfect. The one in the comics is much shorter, and Canadian to boot. As far as size goes, Viktor Arvidsson is probably the best fit for Wolverine. Maybe Kevin Fiala, especially now that he’s got the adamantium in his skeleton. Come to think of it, Ryan Ellis is probably Wolverine. He’s short, hairy & Canadian.
The point stands. Watson is tenacious, gritty and all those old school hockey terms. Just like a wolverine would be if it could carry a hockey stick.
What does Nashville expect from him?
Watson is your prototypical fourth line center. The fourth line is where you put the bruiser, the guys looking to put a hurting on your opponents. The main thing I’ve noticed while watching Watson play is how hard he hits people. I know I wouldn’t want to be on the ice against him. Dude is dangerous.
Predators management extended his contract because they know they can stick him on that checking line and he’ll be effective. With all the questions surrounding the Predators lineup this season, Watson’s place on the team is one of the most certain. Until the NHL bans fighting and hitting people, you’ll always need an enforcer. Watson could fill that role for at least another decade.
Where does he need to improve?
Offense is a concern with Watson. He’s scored a total of 28 points in 140 games. Not a great number. With that being said, he got 9 points during the Predators’ 22 game Stanley Cup Playoff run. When other Predators were coming up short, Watson was picking up the slack. He proved then that he can be effective in both sides of the ice. If he continues to develop that skill, he’ll be effective for years to come.
2017-18 stat projections: 25 points, 120 penalty minutes
Watson should be more active on both ends of the ice this season. He will drive some of you insane on occasion. More importantly, he will drive Nashville’s opponents insane. Nothing wrong with that.