The 2010-11 Ontario Hockey League season has been underway for a few months with most teams having played between 25-28 games. Todays column discusses how some prospects in the CHLs top league have fared thus far this season.
Austin Watson Right Wing, Nashville Predators (Peterborough)
Austin Watson has been an interesting guy to follow the last one and a half seasons, and a prospect whose statistics need to be interpreted with a higher degree of context than the average first round prospect. Last season, Watson started on Windsor, who was arguably the OHLs top team, and their depth kept him from obtaining prime scoring minutes. He was then dealt to Peterborough, and in a small sample size of ten games, put up nine goals and 20 points while skating with two other above average prospects in Bostons Ryan Spooner and potential 2011 first round selection Matt Puempel. The line was very dangerous, and gave promise for the 2010-11 season. However, Peterborough came out of the gates very flat this season, forcing the coaching staff to mix up the lines and break up their big line to spread out scoring. The results of that were Spooner and Puempel remaining together on a line while Watson was relegated to the second line. As the season progressed and the results didnt change, Spooner, who by then had ten goals and 19 points in 14 games, requested a trade and was granted it. So from Watsons perspective, hes been on one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, and not playing on the top line until one of the teams best scorers was dealt.
In regards to his skill set, one pro scout told me this summer that he believed the Predators 2010 first round pick could break camp in 2010-11 and slide into a bottom six role. Watson is much more advanced defensively than the average eighteen year old, on top of being physically developed and possessing a desirable work ethic. The offensive potential is one that I get mixed signals of depending who I talk to. Watson is an above average skater with solid hands and one scout Ive talked to is satisfied with his development, while another feels hes taken a step back. Ive only seen Watson twice this year and while hes shown some offensive promise, I too am not sure how to label him just yet.