Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been named the team's nominee for the 2018 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association (PHWA). The trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Originally selected by the Predators in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft, Watson made his NHL debut in April of 2013, but it wasn't until the 2015-16 season when the 6-4, 204-pound Ann Arbor, Michigan, native became a mainstay in the Predators lineup.
Since then, Watson has established himself as one of the top penalty killers, shot blockers and body checkers in the League, leading the NHL in hits by a wide margin during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Watson has posted 12 goals this season, obliterating his previous career-high of five, and is one point off of tying his career high of 17 set last season.
Watson leads the Predators in hits this season with 179 and is tops among Nashville forwards with 74 blocked shots. His hit totals on the campaign rank 12th among all NHL forwards, his shot blocks are fourth.
In addition to his on-ice contributions, Watson has also immersed himself in the Nashville community, highlighted by the co-hosting of a Christmas party where, along with teammates Colton Sissons and Anthony Bitetto, Watson purchased hundreds of gifts for those less fortunate during the holiday season.
Recent Predators nominees for the Masterton Trophy include defenseman Matt Irwin (2017) and former goaltender Carter Hutton (2016), while former Preds forward Steve Sullivan won the award in 2009.