Sep 22, 2013
Austin Watson found himself impressing not only the fans, but the coaching staff as well.
Passing through the first and second round of cuts during training camp, Watson had arguably his best performance of the preseason so far, scoring Nashville’s second goal and winning 62% of his face-offs in their 2-0 win against the New York Islanders this evening, the Predators first win of the preseason thus far.
“It feels great. Unfortunately we didn’t get the wins we wanted to in Florida, but we knew going into this game that it was a big game for us to get back on track and to get back to playing Predator hockey,” said Watson.
Less than five minutes after Gabriel Bourque roofed a shot over Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson, Watson became the benefactor of a Craig Smith feed to make it 2-0 Nashville. It was the way Watson scored, though, that left most of the building in awe. Modest as Watson was, his through-the-pads, left-to-right-post goal was highlight material.
“[Smith] did a great job driving to the net and the puck just popped out to me. I was fortunate enough to get a look. I don’t know if it was luck or placement, but I was fortunate to have it go in,” said Watson, who smiled as he spoke about his first goal of the preseason.
Last season, the 21 year old Ann Arbor native, played in six games for the Predators while Nashville combated with plenty of season-ending injuries. His performance wasn’t truly noteworthy, recording his first NHL goal and ending his stint with that single point and a -2 rating.
Nashville head coach Barry Trotz noticed Watson’s performance tonight, describing it as the best he’s looked so far in training camp, and perhaps in his entire short NHL career.
“That was [Watson’s] best game so far, he played really well. I think Austin, the stint he had last year, the first game I thought he looked a little out of place, a different league. The more he’s played, the closer he’s gotten to be a National Hockey League player,” said Trotz, “He’s gotten physically stronger and bigger. He knows how to play the game. He’s got lots of courage and he’s a good penalty killer and he has the offensive part of the game, which is seeing the ice and making plays. He’s right on par to be a guy that’s pushing for spots here.”
Seeing his teammates and friends sent back to Milwaukee or back to their Junior teams after the roster cuts this past week, Watson isn’t worried about finding his name on a list and packing his bags for the AHL. Instead, Watson can only worry about the level of intensity he brings on the ice every day.
“It depends on what you put on yourself. Everyone here makes it comfortable for all the guys in this room. It’s not one of those things to where you are nervous to get on the ice and if you’re going to make a mistake. You’re constantly trying to be good every day,” said Watson. “I’ve tried to consistently be good every day. Just coming out here and working hard and trying to do the good things in my game that are hopefully going to help me keep around.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua