By Terry Doyle
“He wants to win”
It may be a simple phrase, but it is praise in the world of hockey. Those were the words of London Knights GM/Head Coach Mark Hunter when referring to Austin Watson. The fourth-year forward is playing in the MasterCard Memorial Cup for the second time in his junior career. He was a rookie on the 2009 Windsor Spitfires team that won the tournament played in Rimouski, Quebec. Watson was among a young group of players that contributed to that Spitfires team, and sees similarities with the current edition of the Knights.
“We had a lot of young guys on that Windsor team too. Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis, Jesse Blacker, we had a good core of first and second year guys,” explained Watson, 20. “(We also had) a good group of older guys that kind of lead the way for the young guys and helped them out. So I think it’s a little bit similar in that way. We just need to try and go out and get the same result.”
The 2009 Spitfires made history after losing the first two games of the tournament, before winning four straight to capture junior hockey’s top trophy. Watson has gone from being one of the young players on that team to being the third-oldest on the Knights roster – and the only one with Memorial Cup experience.
“I think anytime you’ve been to a tournament like this – it’s a round robin scenario, every game is a huge game. I think having a little bit of experience helps and hopefully I can bring some words here and there to help the guys out.”
The Nashville Predators first round pick in 2010 joined the Knights in January following a trade from the Peterborough Petes. Being added to a team already in first place in the Ontario Hockey League standings allowed the Ann Arbor, Michigan native to concentrate on the style of play that has got him noticed among NHL scouts and managers.
“I think it was a little bit more comfortable for me being able to just play my game, Watson added. “I wanted to get back to the style of just playing hard and tight-checking and then scoring goals. That was what I was able to do.”
“He’s a kid we couldn’t pass on,” explained Hunter on adding Watson to the Knights lineup. “He’s come in and fit in very well. He was most valuable player in the playoffs and he’s done some great things for us.”
“He’ll play against one of the top lines… and you know he’s going to give an effort out there at both ends of the ice. It’s easy to play a guy like that.”
Watson has already signed an entry-level contract with the Predators and is expected to turn pro next season. He’d love nothing more than to wrap up his junior hockey career by hoisting the Memorial Cup for a second time.