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Nashville Predators Sign 2010 First Rounder Austin Watson

by Press Release / Nashville Predators
Instant Analysis

The chance to finish the season in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals is key to Austin Watson's long-term progression from junior star to big-time pro.

"Draft is the first step, coming to our conditioning camp and integrating into the Predators system is two. Signing the first contract is three," Preds GM David Poile explained. "And then the next step is for him to get in to Milwaukee and see what it’s like to be a pro player; get in some games and see how he can adjust to the pro level. It is continual steps."

The Preds have used late season additions to help ease the transition with several players in the past.  It's all part of a regimen the Preds have had success with in the past. Jonathon Blum made the crossover two years ago and benefitted with a strong rookie campaign in the AHL last season. After wrapping up his collegiate career last year, Blake Geoffrion joined the Admirals for their playoff run, a major help in his success this season.

"It’s clearly a big step. And players find out quickly about the speed and strength of the players in the American Hockey League," Preds GM David Poile said. "This end of season taste of the AHL, gets them more motivated, more focused as to the talents they have and the areas they need to improve. If the player can play games and help out in Milwaukee this year, that’s sort of a bonus in this situation. It’s more important for them to be there, take in the atmosphere and see how they compare to different players, see what the pro work ethic is like, what the pro preparation is like."

"He'll be practicing against pros -- trying to crack a good lineup of pro players. (Milwaukee Head Coach) Lane Lambert will be saying, here’s what we’re doing today, here’s what I want you to get out of practice today, here’s what I want you to do after practice working with our AHL strength coach, here’s a player I’d like you to look at in terms of his style of play. It's a lot to learn, both on and off the ice, so to to get him exposed to it now, we find really helps down the road."
--Jay Levin,
Nashville, Tenn. (March 30, 2011) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed 2010 first-round pick (18th overall) Austin Watson to a three-year entry level contract. Watson will spend the duration of the 2010-11 season with Milwaukee (AHL) on an Amateur Tryout Agreement.

"The second half of the season he really played well," Poile said of Watson. "He played in all situations and produced in all situations. Not only was he a strong defensive forward killing penalties and blocking shots – things we liked in his draft year – but he produced some very good numbers offensively. All-in-all, it was really good progress for his year for Austin."

Watson, 19 (1/13/92), completed his third Ontario Hockey League season in 2010-11, posting 68 points (34g-34a) in 68 games with the Peterborough Petes. The Ann Arbor, Mich., native tied for 12th in the OHL in power-play goals (14), tied for the club lead in goals, and ranked second on the Petes in points. In 2009-10, the 6-4, 193-pound was Peterborough’s nominee for the 2010 Red Tilson Award as the OHL’s Most Valuable Player after amassing 20 points (9g-11a) in 10 games upon being acquired from Windsor. With the Windsor Spitfires as a rookie in 2008-09, Watson won both the Robertson Cup as OHL Champion and Memorial Cup.

The oldest of 10 children, Watson has participated in the past two USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camps, and in 2010, helped the United States win gold at the U-18 World Championships, posting three points (1g-2a) and 33 penalty minutes in seven games.

Watson (right) with Roman Josi (left) at Preds 2010 Development Camp
Watson at '10 Development Camp
Watson & Ellis from Summer 2010
Watson from 2010 Entry Draft

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