Building the Herd – Ryan Watt

#49 Ryan Watt

Position: Forward

Born: Irvine, Scotland

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 22nd January

After his release by Bracknell, Ryan Watt (centre, in black) has signed on with the Bison for the remainder of the 2014/15 season.

After his release by Bracknell, Ryan Watt (centre, in black) has signed on with the Bison for the remainder of the 2014/15 season. (c) 5 Hole Photography

With the signing deadline fast approaching and teams looking to tweak rosters as the home stretch of the 2014/15 campaign comes into sight, Bison coach Doug Sheppard has added to the roster with the addition of Ryan Watt.

Watt, 25 was released by Bracknell just before Christmas as the bottom placed Bees looked to “change direction” having scored 7 points in 21 games at The Hive.

The former Bison junior made his first senior appearances in the 2004/05 season where he iced for the Bison in the EIHL and scored 6 points in 8 games for the Buffalo in the ENL. After finishing his junior career with the Bison and a spell playing midget hockey in Nebraska with the Omaha Energy, Watt started a prosperous and silverware laden career in the EPIHL.

Over the next 6 seasons from 2006-2012, the Tadley based Watt played for Bracknell, Swindon and Slough but racked up points at a 0.7 point per game clip whilst being a go to player for scoring. With the Bees in 2006/07, his first full senior season, Watt was part of the roster that won the EPL grand slam and in 2008 retained the EPL cup. With Slough, Watt won one EPL cup in 2011 when the Jets beat the Bison and 2 playoff titles, the last of which when Doug Sheppard was the player/coach at Slough. The 2011/12 season in particular for Watt was a real banner year as he had a career year in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes (21+29 = 50 and 166PIMs) alongside the playoff trophy.

That season caught the eye of the Braehead Clan and Watt was called home to Scotland for his first full season in the Elite League. Sadly for Ryan it was an injury hit but he managed 29 games and 3 goals.

Watt returned after his season in Glasgow and re-joined Slough to start 2013/14 even being named alternate captain but a falling out with management saw Ryan released after 4 games. He signed on with Swindon and scored an impressive 34 points in 42 games before signing on with the Bees to start this term.

Ryan also represented Great Britain at under 18 and under 20 level earning a total of 15 caps across both age groups and earned a division 2 silver medal with GB alongside Ciaran Long.

The world of British hockey is a small one but pretty much everyone will have heard of Ryan Watt and have an opinion on him. Power forward, agitator, goon, fighter, goalscorer, overrated, underrated, wasted potential, scapegoat, never given the chance; I’ve heard all of the above heard about Ryan since his release by Bracknell. People will look at the list of teams and changes and baulk at it; why has he moved around so much? However whether you think him a sinner or a saint, one thing is clear; a fit and ready Ryan Watt when well utilised is an asset on any team in the EPIHL and even a cursory look at the numbers will tell you that.

The obvious question comes up; what went wrong at Bracknell? Any potential internal wranglings and potential fitness issues aside, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Bees as a whole are lacking something. Smital and Antonov are scoring points upon points but Bracknell have only scored 68 goals (the next lowest is MK with 95 on the last table I saw) and are 10 points adrift at the bottom of the table. It’s a team with a lot of hustle and a lot of heart but there’s not a lot of high end guys there. When you’re the guy who has had 30 and 40 point seasons and you’re sat on 7 assists, you become an easy target when management want to change things.

Doug Sheppard is not a fool nor will he have made this decision lightly. Watt has been training with the Bison over the last couple of weeks and Sheppard has had a good long look at him. If he didn’t think Watt was fit enough or could fit into the Bison then I believe he wouldn’t have signed him.

That said, I’m glad Sheppard has to make the choice of where Watt goes into the line-up because I confess at first glance I struggled to think where he goes. Ultimately with this weekend’s game with the Lightning two days away it depends on how up to speed Ryan is with how the team works and his fitness. If he’s not quite there then he can easily be rotated into situations where his skill set is required like Stuart Mogg is on occasions. If he is rocking and ready to go it’ll be interesting to see where he goes. Arguably given his gritty style of play he goes with Karpov and Melachrino whilst Wales deputises on defence with Chinn moving to play with Connolly and Rand. Personally I wondered whether Karpov stays with Chinn and Melachrino moves to that line so Watt plays with Connolly and Rand with gives the Bison a line with more grit than a driveway and a bit of scoring punch. These predictions come with the caveat that Sheppard changes line combinations at the drop of a hat and I’m generally wrong.

Some would call this signing a bit of a gamble but in reality it’s a win/win for both parties. Watt gets a chance to play in a team that is more well rounded and higher up the table with the chance to prove himself and the chance at silverware come the end of the season. The Bison add depth in the form of a player that on his day is multifaceted and has a point to prove.

Welcome back, Ryan.


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