The Nashville Predators have signed Austin Watson to a brand new two-year contract this afternoon. The details of the contract specify that the first year of the new deal is a two-way contract for the 2015-16 season with the last year being an exclusive one-way NHL contract for the 2016-17 season.
Press Release via Nashville Predators:
Nashville, Tenn. (June 29, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Monday that the club has signed forward Austin Watson to a two-year contract. The deal is a two-way contract in 2015-16 paying him $575,000 at the NHL level and $100,000 at the AHL level, and a one-way, $575,000 contract in 2016-17.
Watson, 23 (1/13/92), led Milwaukee and tied for 14th in the American Hockey League in goals (26) in 2014-15, in addition to tying for second among all AHL skaters in game-winning goals (8) while appearing in all 76 regular-season games for the second consecutive season. He’s also ranked among the Top Three Admirals in points in each of his first three professional seasons. The 6-3, 206-pound native of Ann Arbor, Mich., has appeared in six NHL contests with Nashville, all during the 2012-13 campaign, scoring one goal.
Nashville’s first choice, 18th overall (first round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Watson won a pair of Ontario Hockey League titles with Windsor in 2009 and London in 2012 and the 2009 Memorial Cup during his junior career. He was the recipient of the 2012 Wayne Gretzky 99 Award presented to playoff MVP and helped London advance to overtime of the 2012 Memorial Cup title game, earning a spot on the tournament All-Star Team. The oldest of 10 children, Watson led the United States in points and assists at the 2012 World Junior Championship, and helped Team USA win gold at the 2010 U-18 World Championship.
Watson has been a big part of the Admirals over the past three seasons, scoring 20 and then 22 goals in his first two seasons, respectively, before notching a career high 26 goals in 2014-15. That total led all Milwaukee players, and he finished second in points (44) behind Viktor Arvidsson. Watson’s 46 points in 2013-14 were also a career high.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan native was the Predators first-round draft pick in 2010, and has six games National Hockey League experience on his resume, including his first NHL goal in a 4-3 win over Calgary on April 23, 2013. That was his last game with Nashville to date.
When I spoke to Watson last month, he anticipated being back in Milwaukee or Nashville in 2015-16:
“This summer I just want to continue to mature physicially and get bigger, stronger and faster, like we talk about every summer (in regards to) every single guy that is still playing in the AHL and wants to play at the next level. This summer is definitely a big step in my career and I feel like I’m ready to play at that level. When camp comes around, it will be time to see if that comes to fruition.”
You can read more from Watson and coach Dean Evason in my upcoming End of Season feature coming this week on MilwaukeeAdmirals.com.
So Roundtable . . . Are you excited to have Watty back in Nashville/Milwaukee? Do you see him making the NHL in the near future with the Predators or another NHL team?