Greg Watson, a front-line power forward for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League, is on a roll.
After a slow start to his Western Hockey League season, Watson has exploded to produce 18 goals and 15 assists for 29 points in 27 games.
The slow start wasn’t a problem to his team because he was still playing with heart and determination, said head coach Wade Klippenstein.
“Offensively his numbers weren’t what he wanted them to be but I still thought he was playing hard and reasonably well.”
With a hat trick on Nov. 20 against the Swift Current Broncos and then another on Nov. 28 against the Medicine Hat Tigers, Watson took his point tally to 26 points in 26 games.
After counting two goals and one assist for a three-point game Nov. 30 in Calgary against the Hitmen (a 5-4 overtime loss), the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Watson said he might have found his groove.
“I’m starting to get the feel,” the Calgary native said. “I finally found a pattern of sticks I like and things are just bouncing my way right now.”
The WHL also recognized the streak of points and Watson was awarded Player of the Week after recording eight points in four games in the week ending Dec. 2.
After going 0-11-1-2 on the road at the start of this season, Watson guided the Raiders to their first road victory of the campaign.
Despite his Raiders being out shot 32-31, Watson had a five-point night with a trio of goals and two assists to lead his team to a 6-2 win over the Tigers.
Klippenstein can see Watson warming up and knows his star forward’s continued success will benefit the team in a big way. “He’s a power forward and these guys are tough to find. When he plays well and scores our team does well,” Klippenstein said.
Everyone can easily see he’s on fire after his recent display, including Prince Albert director of marketing Bruce Vance.
“He is playing a lot better after a slow start,” Vance commented. “(Watson is) one of our key guys if not the key guy.”
After being drafted in the second round, 34th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2001 National Hockey League Entry Draft this past June, the pressure and the expectations are high.
“It was a nice fun time in the summer – being drafted by the team hosting the draft, Florida – but I’ve got to prove myself this year more than last year,” Watson recalled.
Klippenstein has a good feeling that Watson will put up big numbers this year.
“He is one of our offensive leaders – a very skilled guy with a big body for hockey,” Klippenstein said. “We expect him to be one of the top players in the league this year.”
Among the league leaders in game-winning goals with three, Watson has proved he can play under pressure.
“I’m one of many that play better when the games are tight and there is more emotion involved,” said Watson. “I like playing under pressure.”
Watson’s outlook on his personal statistics and situation is modest at best.
When looking at the games ahead he thinks of the team instead of himself.
“I just want our team to win. Our No. 1 goal is to make the playoffs this season,” said Watson. “Whatever I can do to help my team is my first priority.”
Aaron Dowding is a writer with Alberta Hockey Now.