Coming off of a shaky season that saw multiple suspensions, Austin Watson needs to prove himself if he wants to stay with the Nashville Predators going forward.
Austin Watson is now on the last year on his contract after his controversial 2019-20 campaign that saw him miss over half the year with off the ice issues, so he will have to have a much cleaner season if he is looking to stay with the Nashville Predators.
On the ice, Watson didn’t look too badly last season, scoring seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, with three of those goals coming in a hat trick against Anaheim.
The problem with Watson is that he needs to stay on the ice and cling to whatever spot he earns in the bottom six this year, as roster spots are getting tight.
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He will likely have to compete for a fourth-line role against guys like Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok and Miikka Salomaki, so there is a chance he finds himself off of the roster before the season begins.
If he earns his role back in the preseason, there still could be a short leash on Watson, especially after the off-ice conduct issues he had last season, so it is important he shifts his attention to the on-ice product this season.
Watson is a player who can come through in big moments when the Nashville Predators need him most through his grit and work ethic, so as long as he continues to play with the heart he has his entire career, he should be able to compete with the other bottom six options on the team.
The Nashville Predators could see growth from Watson this season, as he was on pace to crush his career-high in points last season, had he played the games he missed last season.
If he keeps on that pace, he should be good for 15 goals and 35 points next season, but if that pace isn’t sustainable 10 goals and 25 points are still very much attainable for Watson this season.
Watson will also factor into the Nashville Predators penalty kill yet again this season, a penalty kill that placed 6th in the NHL last season, which could become even better with Watson back for a full season.
Granted, options like Sissons and Grimaldi have also taken over the penalty kill, so Watson will need to compete even harder if he wants to be a factor.
His off-ice issues put him at a major disadvantage when it comes to jockeying for position in the bottom six, so it is important he makes his mark, and quickly.
With his struggles with alcoholism in the rearview mirror, Austin Watson needs to have a solid season if he wants to keep his roster spot.