Watson appears to be an all-American boy that Nashville fans will love to see in a Predators uniform. As if he had planned to be drafted by Nashville, he was dressed in a shiny, dark pin-striped suit with boots that could have allowed him to walk to center stage at the Grand Old Opry House and fit right in.
He has never been to Nashville but does like country music and is looking forward to checking out the city in a couple of weeks at the prospect development camp.
David Poile appeared extremely pleased with the selection. They had targeted Watson as the player that they wanted and were pleasantly surprised that he was still available at the eighteenth pick. Poile said that Watson has been compared to Ryan Kessler and said that if it proves to be true then this will be a highly successful draft.
Watson is the oldest of nine kids and claims Ann Arbor, Michigan as his hometown. His family moved to Florida when he was twelve, but he remained in Michigan with his grandparents in order to play hockey.
Before being traded to Peterborough midway through the last season, he had played with last year's first pick, Ryan Ellis at Windsor under the direction of ex-Predator Bob Bougner. Watson is looking forward to being reunited with Ellis in a Pred's uniform.
Watson was injured for part of the past season and was limited to 52 games. He still managed to score 20 goals and add 34 assists while playing a strong two-way game.
He played the entire 2008-09 season with Windsor where he was part of the Spitfires Memorial Cup winning team. He also was a part of the Gold Medal winning under 18 version of team USA during this past season.
Watson was rated as the 14th best North American skater by Central Scouting and most mock drafts had him going higher than the Pred's 18th pick.
Before the draft, Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting gives a run down of Watson's game. “Austin is a very good penalty killer. 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 is a good shot blocker. I like his energy and willingness to play a role and be good at that role.”
Watson was one of eleven players from the United States to be drafted in the first round which is the most ever with ten being the previous highest number. This is a tribute to the solid program that USA Hockey has been developing over the last few years.
Rounds two through seven will begin Saturday at Noon on the NHL Network. If no trades are made, the Predators will not draft again until the third round (78th overall). Nashville's other picks will be in the fifth round (126th), sixth round (168th), and then two in the seventh round (194th and 198th).
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass