10 years after being selected 18th overall by the Predators in 2010, Austin Watson can now be safely tagged as a bust by all statistical measures.
Watson has yet to play a full NHL season since the 2010 draft, creating more of an enforcer role for himself in the meantime. Unsavory details of Watson's personal life were unearthed in the summer of 2018 and nearly ended his career as he knew it. Though David Poile (somewhat controversially) opted to keep Watson on the roster, the 28-year old forward has yet to experience a second wind on the ice.
Among Preds forwards who played more than 20 games in 2019-20, Watson's 14 points finished as the third-fewest, higher than only Colin Blackwell (10) and Yakov Trenin (6)- both of whom played in about half the games Watson did. Watson's best offensive season occurred in 2017-18, when he put up 14 goals and five assists in 76 games. Beyond his contract year, Watson has shown no marketed improvement in his game. Watson's 14 points this season is his lowest total since his rookie season in 2015-16; his poor performance this year caused his average time on ice to be shaved down by nearly three minutes from last season.
Taking only 50 shots in 2019-20, Watson again ranks near the bottom among Preds forwards. His 42.1 percent Corsi rating is dead last on the team, signifying that Watson spent the most time trying to cover his tracks on defense and the least time actively participating in offensive surges. Watson's offensive zone starting percentage sits at a team-low 30 percent on the season, which made him dismally incapable of creating much offense.
In concordance with his 30 percent oZS%, Watson's 70 percent defensive zone start percentage will make you wince. On top of that, Watson's -9 on-ice rating in 2019-20 is the lowest of his career and is tied with Kyle Turris' for the worst +/- on the Preds. Obviously Watson's defensive stats aren't totally reliant on Watson alone- he's on the Preds' bottom forward line, and they tend to... struggle... both on offense and defense. This helps explain why Watson's on-ice save percentage sits at 85.6 percent- another team low.
Watson's 42.1 percent Corsi rating shows that, for the most part, he spends his ice time on defense. Combined with his -9 on-ice rating, however, Watson's poor backchecking abilities come into full view.
GENERAL EFFECTIVENESS AND TEAM INFLUENCE
Prior to his NHL career and alongside future Preds teammate Ryan Ellis, Watson helped the OHL's Windsor Spitfires win back-to-back championships in 2008-09 and 2009-10 at just 17 and 18 years old, respectively. After being traded away from Peterborough during the 2011-12 OHL season, Watson won his third championship as a member of the London Knights (Jarred Tinordi was there, too).
At 6'4, Watson is tied with Mattias Ekholm as the third-tallest active Predator. Since his NHL numbers have left a lot to be desired, Watson has become Nashville's resident tough guy. His 65 penalty minutes in 2019-20 are the highest on the team, but Watson will surely come to blows on behalf of his teammates- and likely win the fight. Watson signed a three-year $4.5 million extension last October (I don't know why either), but given his backsliding performances the last few seasons, it might be best for Poile to shed him and his overpriced contract in the near future.