Our annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown has officially entered the top ten! The rankings were determined by a combination of reader voting and our staff’s own voting. We then combined the reader rankings (50%) and the staff rankings (50%) to determine the top 25. To be eligible for the countdown, a player must be 24 or younger on October 5, 2017, when the 2017-18 NHL season begins.
We’re taking a look at the best and the brightest in the Los Angeles Kings organization in our fifth annual Top 25 Under 25 countdown. A longtime Jewels favorite slots in at #7: Spencer Watson.
2016-17 Team: Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
2016-17 Statistics: 41 GP, 28 G, 25 A, 53 P
Current NHL Projection (via NHLe): 82 GP, 17 G, 15 A, 32 P
Jewels Reader Ranking: 8
Jewels Staff Ranking: 6
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a smaller, “undersized” guy dominates in juniors, is taken very late in the draft and is still considered a risky prospect whose game “may be better suited for Europe.” Enter: Spencer Watson, who jumped up several spots from #16 last year. At a mere five feet, 10 inches tall and weighing a hefty 170lbs, Watson is considered “undersized” by NHL standards. However, much like another (former) diminutive forward Jordan Weal, Watson is known more for his scoring touch.
Playing with a “wonky” wrist throughout much of the 2015-16 season, Watson managed to score 43 goals. It seems cautiously fair to say he’s been a consistent scorer, though his injury history may be cause for concern. In 41 games in 2014-15, he scored 20 goals and scored 28 last season (also in 41 GP), despite missing two months following wrist surgery. Due to said medical procedure, management opted to return Watson to the OHL for an over age season. Being a half a point player in the OHL isn’t super impressive, but considering of his injuries and the fact that Kingston Frontenacs were more of a middle-of-the-pack team, his scoring record is pretty good. And what is impressive is helping a bottom-rung team like the Mississauga Steelheads climb the ranks throughout the season and then lead the (Ontario) league with 14 postseason goals.
Wing depth on the Kings is rather crowded with both Adrian Kempe and Jonny Brodzinski eyeing spots on the right side. Then of course, there are other depth players like Michael Mersch and Justin Auger (neither of whom are waiver eligible this season and are currently competing with Jordan Nolan and Andy Andreoff for the highly esteemed role of “interchangeable bottom-six depth player”). Of course, any realistic NHL-potential discussion is probably at least a year or more down the line. For now, Watson will prepare for a long-awaited role with the Ontario Reign.
While Watson can’t add any inches, he can bulk up and continue to add more muscle to his frame, which is probably what Kings management will be looking for him to do as he finally makes his professional debut. Like most undersized forwards, Watson is certainly a long shot to make the NHL. It sounds like Rob Blake and John Stevens don’t plan to change too much with the Kings’ system, but it remains to be seen how they decide to handle this upcoming season, especially with an eye towards bright young stars.
The 21-year-old London, Ontario native certainly has a nose for the net and the soft scoring touch badly lacked in this team’s system. The only thing that remains to be seen is how he’ll handle better, bigger, and tougher competition. One thing that is certain: never count out the little guys. They always end up surprising you.