Nashville Predators: Austin Watson’s return will help team on the ice

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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It was a tumultuous summer for Nashville Predators’ forward Austin Watson. His 18-game suspension ends just in time for the team on the ice.

For all the success the Nashville Predators are seeing on the ice – at least most nights – there is a gray cloud looming overhead. After a summer filled with controversy, forward Austin Watson is available to return to action as early as Thursday after serving his 18-game suspension.

Originally, the NHL levied a 27-game term for Watson, who was charged with domestic assault in June. He pled “no contest” to a charge of domestic assault in a July hearing. However, an independent arbitration reduced the suspension to 18 games.

The timing for Watson to return could not be better for the Predators on the ice. With Viktor Arvidsson returning to the Injured Reserved and Calle Jarnkrok missing for injury, the forward depth is in need of extra supply. Coach Peter Laviolette was forced to play musical chairs with his forward lines in the team’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks last night.

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Watson brings exactly what the Predators need right now. Considering the state of the special teams, Nashville needs some help killing off penalties. The penalty kill has only been on the ice 54 time this season, a far cry from the levels the team witnessed last year. Still, the 77.78% success rate is not ideal. And below what they experienced last season.

Watson played over 170 minutes on the penalty kill last season. Of course, opponents take advantage of these minutes and stats heavily skewed to their favor. Still, when Watson was on the ice, he allowed only 53 high-danger chances, which turned into 12 goals. Yet, the Predators also scored 6 short-handed goals. Watson had 4 of those goals.

For what it is worth, the team’s PDO was 1.016 when Watson was on the penalty kill. Not terrible.

There is more. Watson is one of the more physical players in the NHL, leading the Predators in hits last season. Additionally, he led all Nashville Forwards in blocks. With 14 goals, Watson provides valuable minutes for the Predators.

While Watson played on the third line for a good portion of last season; however, he will likely start on the fourth line with Colton Sissons. Last season, the pair played over 340 minutes together, allowing only 5 goals. They out shot and gained more high-danger chances than they allowed. That gives the Predators an extra boost.

Next. TIme to move on from Frederick Gaudreau. dark

Sure, they are successful right now, leading the NHL in points. But, now they are closer to a complete team.