2007-08: Austin Watson played for the Detroit Compuware AAA. Had originally committed to the University of Maine program, but instead decided to play in the OHL after being chosen in the second round of the 2008 OHL Priority Selection by the Windsor Spitfires.
2008-09: In his rookie OHL season with the Windsor Spitfires, Watson scored 10 goals and added 19 assists for 29 points in 63 games. He was a +15 for the season, and added 41 penalty minutes. In the Spitfires’ run to the 2009 Memorial Cup championship, Watson picked up 3 assists in 20 postseason games.
2009-10: Watson played for two teams this season. He began the season with the Windsor Spitfires, playing in 42 games for that club. He scored 11 goals and added 23 assists for 34 points. Watson was traded to the Peterborough Petes, and, after returning from an injury, played in 10 games for the Petes. He scored 9 goals and added 11 assists for 20 points, giving him 20 goals and 34 assists for 54 points on the season. In 4 playoff games for the Petes, Watson scored 2 goals. Watson played for Team Cherry at the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game where suffered an ankle injury while blocking a shot.
2010-11: Watson made his pro debut in limited ice time with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals at the end of the year after scoring at a point-per-game pace for Peterborough in the OHL. Watson was scoreless with no penalty minutes in eight games with the Admirals, which included three playoff contests. Watson skated in all 68 games for a disappointing Petes’ team that won just 20 games and finished last in the East Division. He scored 34 goals, including 14 power play scores, with 34 assists and had a -38 plus/minus with 54 PMs.
2011-12: Watson had an eventful season – skating for the USA in the 2012 World Junior Championship and then playing in the Memorial Cup with London after a mid-season trade from Peterborough to the Knights. One of the few American forwards, along with teammates Bill Arnold and Emerson Etem, to stand out on a team that finished seventh in the WJC, he scored 3 goals with 6 assists in six games and finished plus-six. In 32 games with Peterborough he scored 14 goals with 19 assists and was minus-one with 33 penalty minutes. Watson skated in 29 regular season games with London and scored 11 goals (seven on the power play) and was plus-three with 24 assists and 14 penalty minutes. After playing a limited role for Windsor in his trip to the Memorial Cup in 2008-09, Watson was a big part of London’s playoff success; scoring 10 goals with 17 assists and finishing plus-10 with 10 penalty minutes in 19 OHL playoff games. Watson received the OHL’s Wayne Gretzky Trophy as the playoff MVP. In four games at the Memorial Cup he scored 2 goals with 3 assists. London lost to Shawinigan in the championship game.
2012-13: Watson made his NHL debut with the Predators in April and was Nashville AHL affiliate Milwaukee’s second-leading scorer. He scored his first NHL goal (and only point to date) in the Predators’ final home game against Calgary, a 4-3 win. He was -2 in six NHL games and averaged 12:42 minutes of ice time. Watson led Milwaukee with 20 goals and had 17 assists in 72 games; finishing +4 with 22 penalty minutes. The Admirals were second in the Midwest Division and lost to Texas in a first round playoff series. Watson had 1 goal in four playoff games.
2013-14: Watson moved from his traditional center spot to the wing position and was one of two players to skate in all 76 games for Nashville AHL affiliate Milwaukee in his second pro season. He was the team’s third-leading scorer with 22 goals and 24 assists and was plus-four with 24 penalty minutes. Watson scored five of his 22 goals on the power play for the Admirals and had seven game-winners. In the three-game playoff series with Toronto he was minus-3 with no points and six penalty minutes.
Watson is a solid two-way centerman but with the versatility to play the wing and the shutdown role against the opposition's best forwards. He can take over games with his effort and determination. The big forward does all the little things well in order to win hockey games: blocking shots, making the big hit, winning the important face-offs and scoring the timely goals. The first round pick has good offensive skills but does not project into a big goal scorer at the NHL level just a solid shutdown center with some offensive upside. Watson is the type of player that a team needs to win playoff games and championships.
Watson is one of several forwards who will be competing for a spot with the Predators in training camp this fall and is likely to begin the season in the AHL barring a trade. A former first-round pick he has not been the point-per-game scorer at the pro level that he was during his junior career but his ability to make a smooth transition and play both center and wing is a plus. He must continue to develop the other areas of his game to play at the NHL level.