WDSE client, Austin Watson, has a pretty quiet two weeks ahead of him.
While many of his new Ottawa Senators’ teammates will be gearing up to be ready for the start of the 2020-21 campaign whenever it gets under way, the rugged forward and his family will be in self-isolation at their Ottawa home for the next 14 days after arriving in town from Nashville.
The 28-year-old Watson, dealt to the Senators by the Predators on Oct. 11 in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2021 NHL draft, was making his way down Highway 401 to Ottawa when he spoke with Postmedia Thursday afternoon and he’s excited about the opportunity to start a new chapter in his career.
Accompanied by the family dog Phoebee in the passenger seat, Watson took a break in the two day drive by spending Wednesday night with his grandparents at their home in Detroit. His wife, Jennifer Guardino, and the couple’s daughter Olivia were scheduled to arrive in Ottawa by plane yesterday.
Once the self-isolation is completed, Watson will join several of his teammates already in town at the Canadian Tire Centre. Goaltender Matt Murray arrived here 10 days ago while defencemen Thomas Chabot, Erik Gudbranson and Artyem Zub are here along with forwards Nick Paul and Alex Formenton.
Players arriving from Europe and the United States have to quarantine so the expectation is you’re going to see some of those players arrive in town in the near future.
“I figured we might as well get (the quarantine) out of the way sooner rather than later and then we can get going,” Watson said with a laugh.
Once Watson got past the initial shock of being dealt to the Senators, he was excited about the opportunity.
“Last season was a tough one for Nashville Predators period and individually for me,” said Watson. “There were some good spots early on but with the coaching change and then around the trade deadline last year I was definitely more prepared then to be moved than I was in the summer.
“I figured after the Return to Play, and getting the opportunity to play throughout the playoffs (in Edmonton), I thought the ship had been kind of righted a little bit. I was a little bit caught off guard but just super-excited for a new opportunity as well.”
It’s not like Watson will be walking into a room full of strangers. He spent parts of two seasons with Ottawa coach D.J. Smith and assistant Bob Jones with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. They won a Memorial Cup together in 2009 and both respect Watson’s ability to play a key role for this club.
Not only does Watson compete with a rugged style, he’s also going to play a big role on the penalty killing units. Smith is expecting him to be able to take some faceoffs and, ideally, they’d like to get him back to contributing more consistently offensively. He’s a veteran and he can help.
“Having played for D.J. before and knowing Bob Jones and just knowing the style they coach with and seeing the young group of guys in Ottawa and the talent that we have is exciting,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to come in and play a certain role and be a veteran guy that’s had some great experiences.
“I’ve played in the Stanley Cup final (in 2017), I’ve been to the playoffs the last few years and I have some experiences that I can use to my advantage to help out the Senators. It’s a team that’s going to get better and better quickly. That’s something I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion and Smith like Watson because he’s tough to play against.
“I don’t really have to look outside myself to bring that element to the table,” Watson said. “I pride myself on being hard to play against, playing the game the right way and playing a full 200-foot game. That style of hockey is exactly the way D.J. and his staff want to play the game.
“They want to be hard to play against and I feel like that’s an area where I can really contribute. It’s not about fighting or anything like that, it’s about defending hard. When you’re playing against another team, they have to know that they’re in for a battle tonight. I really believe that with the additions they’ve made and with the pieces already in place that playing the Ottawa Senators is going to be no easy task.”
Of course, Watson has seen first hand what goaltender Matt Murray can achieve because he faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Cup final when he led his club to victory over the Predators.
He’s ready to turn the page and is looking forward to it.
“I’m coming to an Ottawa Senators team where I’m going to be able to write a new chapter for myself, my career and my family. We’re really excited,” Watson said.