(Editor's note: This is one in a series of features about prospects who might possibly be available when the Ottawa Senators make the No. 16 selection of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, set for June 25-26 in Los Angeles. Choices are based on rankings by several services, including NHL Central Scouting).
|Austin Watson missed out a chance for a second straight Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires, but his trade to the Peterborough Petes allowed the big forward to increase his stature in the eyes of NHL Central Scouting and others (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images).
Austin Watson already had his ring.
Still, surrendering the gold-plated prospect of a second straight Memorial Cup title with the Windsor Spitfires required some rather deep thought. But in Watson's mind, the mid-season trade that sent him to the lowly Peterborough Petes was clearly a case of enduring some short-term pain for long-term pain.
While Watson had to watch his former teammates parade around the ice in Brandon, Man., with a second straight Memorial Cup, the 18-year-old native of Ann Arbor, Mich., figures he'll get his just reward later on this month, when the 2010 NHL Entry Draft is held in Los Angeles.
The increased ice time he earned with the Petes went a long way toward boosting the draft stock of Watson, who is considered one of the fastest rising prospects for the June 25-26 draft at the Staples Center. NHL Central Scouting had Watson rated 25th among North American skaters in its mid-season rankings but moved him up to 14th by season's end. International Scouting Services and The Hockey News both rate him in the top 15 overall, within range of an Ottawa Senators team that holds the 16th selection in the first round.
All of his gains in the eyes of scouts can be traced back to that season-defining trade.
"I had to weigh the option of staying in Windsor and (possibly) being on another Memorial Cup team," Watson told NHL.com. "But at the same time, it is about me a little bit. I had to think going into Peterborough, I'm going to play more and the scouts are going to see more of me. Instead of coming to the rink to see me, Taylor (Hall) and Cam (Fowler) ... you get lost in the crowd with top-end guys like that."
Watson didn't exactly get the chance to make an immediate impact with the Petes, breaking his ankle while blocking a shot in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January (he'd played only three games in Peterborough before the mishap). While he missed a month of action, the 6-3, 185-pound forward totalled 20 points in 10 games with the Petes and impressed scouts with his all-around game.
"Austin is a very good penalty killer," said Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting. "He plays a high-energy two-way game. He's aggressive on the forecheck and he will finish his checks. He has good hands and can shoot the puck hard. He is an excellent competitor and a good shot blocker.
"I had to weigh the option of staying in Windsor and (possibly) being on another Memorial Cup team. But at the same time, it is about me a little bit. I had to think going into Peterborough, I'm going to play more and the scouts are going to see more of me. Instead of coming to the rink to see me, Taylor (Hall) and Cam (Fowler) ... you get lost in the crowd with top-end guys like that." - Austin Watson
"I like his energy and willingness to play a role and be good at that role."
While Watson played a hand in the Spitfires' Memorial Cup triumph in 2009 and considers it his favourite hockey memory so far, the move to Peterborough clearly has given him a chance to enjoy an even bigger one at the draft.
"In Windsor, I played, but with Taylor Hall and (Flames first-round pick) Greg Nemisz and (Devils prospect) Adam Henrique, it's their show, they've been here for awhile," said Watson. "For me, going to Peterborough, I had an opportunity to go there and play first power play and play penalty kill, play more minutes and really showcase what I can do."
The eldest of nine children, Watson hopes to have the entire family at the Staples Center for the start of the next chapter of his hockey life.
"It's going to be amazing for them to be able to be there and experience it with me," he said. "It's going to make it that much better. When I was 12, I lived away from them (the family moved to Florida, but he stayed behind in Michigan with his grandparents to further his hockey aspirations) and to be able to come back and enjoy it and be a part of it ... it's going to be unbelievable.
"I know they are going to be extremely proud and excited for me to have an opportunity like that (to be drafted). It's going to be a good thing."