The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the tenth installment of this series, we look at winger Austin Watson of the Peterborough Petes (creative team name) of the OHL.
Watson is generally overlooked when talking about the prospects coming into this draft, but has been consistently ranked in the top-15 of the ISS Top 30 all year. The 6’3, 185 lb winger has put together a fine sophomore season in the OHL, putting together a line of 20-34-54 with 22 PIMs in 52 games split with Peterborough and the Windsor Spitfires. He also added two goals in four playoff games this year. Watson also played on the US U-18 Team in April, playing the role of grinding third liner en route to a gold medal.
Watson’s biggest strength is his skating ability. He is very quick on his feet, and has the agility to change directions quickly, despite his tall stature. He is very tough to knock off the puck, and he will only get increasingly more difficult to knock off the puck as his body weight catches up to his height. His quickness, stride, and overall speed (quickness and speed are different) will also improve as he ages and develops more lower body strength.
Watson isn’t the flashiest of players, but he uses his size to go to the high traffic areas and bang home dirty goals. This type of player serves several purposes: he wreaks havoc in front of the net, he draws attention to himself, and opens up space for more skilled players to work in the open ice. He won’t wow you with his moves, he won’t amaze you by dangling through two defensemen and then roofing a shot. He will wow you with his blue collar effort and his propensity for getting dirty goals. New Yorkers love blue collar players, and Watson fits that bill to a T. As mentioned before, Watson is often overlooked because he doesn’t have the offensive flair that players of the Ryan Johansen, Jeff Skinner, or Nino Niederreiter ilk have.
While there are no glaring weaknesses in his game, Watson will be a bit of a project, as he needs to grow more into his body before he can really be an effective two-way player. With the Rangers drafting in the top-ten, Watson will definitely be available, but some may question whether or not Watson is what the Rangers need. He peaks as a 60 point NHL player who could lead the penalty kill, but that is only if he meets his peak. There are several more offensively tilted players that may suit the Rangers needs a little more than Watson, but what Watson does have going for him is that he could potentially be a more offensively gifted version of Ryan Callahan.
Image Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images.