Growing up as the oldest of nine children probably helped Austin Watson develop an advanced sense of responsibility.
The Peterborough Petes right wing, whom NHL Central Scouting has rated 14th among North American skaters, is probably one of the most low-risk picks available in the first round. The native of Ann Arbor, Mich., has draft frequent comparisons to another U.S.-born winger, the Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler. Observers are taken in by Watson's abilities as a penalty killer and, with 185 pounds spread across a rangy 6-foot-3 frame, his ability to use his size effectively. He'll probably project as more of a two-way player at the NHL level, which might make him a good fit with a team which has to grind out wins. (SB Nation's mock draft has the Nashville Predators taking him 18th overall; he might be a reach as a Top 10 pick.)
Watson came into the Ontario Hockey League via the Windsor Spitfires' pipeline into Michigan and was part of the club's first of successive MasterCard Memorial Cup championships in 2009. He was dealt to the Petes in January for Buffalo Sabres first-rounder Zack Kassian. Despite missing more than one-third of the season due to a broken ankle, he totaled 54 points in 42 games for the Spitfires and Petes, including 20 in 10 with the latter.
For the record, Watson's parents, Mary and Mike Watson, are expecting their 10th child in July, all individual births. And Austin Watson is actually the only hockey player in the family.
1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?
"Starting with the [CHL] Top Prospects Game right after I was traded, that really started me off on a good path for the duration of my year. Unfortunately, I got injured and had to miss 18 games. There was a lot of hunger, fire in the belly to come back and prove to the fans why Peterborough brought me there and prove to everybody else that I can be a counted-on offensive leader on that team. It was exciting to get in there and make an impact in those last 10 games [scoring 20 points]."
2. In your mind, what would scouts say is the biggest thing you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?
"What I'm facing is a little bit of physical fitness and a little bit of consistency, just competing night in and night out. I also have to watch for not getting too wrapped up in the game and letting the physical part go by the wayside. Being a better skater is a big part of it too.
"Some games I am a big physical force out there and some games it's, 'He's trying to score goals or make things happen offensively and he's forgetting about his body.' My body is a big part of my game. I have a big frame and I need to use that."
3. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
"I know how to win. I helped win a [MasterCard] Memorial Cup in Windsor [in 2009] and was able to win a U18 gold medal [for Team USA this spring in Belarus]. I believe I do a lot of little things right that add up to a winning team, lead by example, stuff like that."
"To win it as a rookie in junior hockey and with such a great group of guys was unbelievable. Seeing Windsor win it this year was a little disappointing, a little tough, but at the same time, I'm happy for them and I think I made the right career choice for me."
4. Whom do you consider your biggest hockey influence?
"I have to say family, since mine is so big. They were a big part of letting me move away to play hockey at age 16 and drive me to be better. I'd do anything for them. I have a lot of people to keep track of there [as the oldest of nine children]."
5. Favourite TV show or movie?
"Lost. I wasn't able to catch all of Season 6, but I'll get the DVDs at some point and just watch them straight through."
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Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
- Austin Watson
- Peterborough Petes