Building the Herd – Ryan Watt

#49 Ryan Watt

Position: Forward

Born: Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 6th August

No anagrams but some guessing; Ryan Watt returns to the Bison for 2015/16 amongst some discussion as to how he will be used in the upcoming campaign. (c) 5 Hole Photography

No anagrams but some guessing; Ryan Watt returns to the Bison for 2015/16 amongst some discussion as to how he will be used in the upcoming campaign.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With the recently announced departures of Andy Melachrino and Cameron Wynn, Bison coach Doug Sheppard announced a return to the forward ranks in the form of Ryan Watt.

Watt, 25, was released by Bracknell just before Christmas 2014 and after a spell recovering from injuries and training with the Herd, signed on for the rest of the season in late January 2015 for the remainder of the season.

A former Bison junior, Watt made his senior debut with the Bison in 2004/05 when the club was in the Elite League after solid numbers in his Bison junior career. For 2005/06, Watt started the season with the Bison under 19s before moving to Nebraska where he played for the Omaha Energy, going a point per game at Midget level before for his first full season of senior hockey in 2006/07. Watt signed on for the Bracknell Bees and was part of the Berkshire side’s league and playoff winning double side, returning for 2007/08 where the Bees won the EPL cup. For 2008/09, Watt started the season with Swindon but after registering only 2 points in 13 games, the Scot returned to Bracknell where he scored 20 points in 28 games for a more productive tenure and the start of a bit of a game of pinball across some of the Southern EPL sides.

Watt remained at the Bees to start 2009/10 and played half the season before a switch across Berkshire to Slough to join the Jets where he would capture the playoff title. Watt left Slough for Swindon at the start of 2010/11 but returned to the Jets around the half way mark of the season and picked up another EPL Cup winners medal with the Jets.

Doug Sheppard convinced Watt to stay in Slough for the full 2011/12 campaign where Ryan had his best season to date; 47 games and 50 points and another playoff winners medal as the Jets took what would turn out to be their final triumph at Coventry.

The big league came calling for Ryan and a return home of sorts as he moved to the Braehead Clan. Watt was popular in purple but a knee injury saw him miss a large chunk of the campaign, where he registered 3 goals in 29 games.

Watt returned down South for 2013/14 and was named an alternate captain for the Slough Jets but was controversially released after the Jets poor start to the season and a reported falling out with Jets owner Zoran Kozic. Watt saw out the season with Swindon and finished with 34 points in 42 games before starting last season back with the Bees.

Overall, Ryan has played 354 EPIHL games with 243 points and 55 games in the EIHL. He also has 5 caps for the GB under 18s and 10 for the under 20s.

If Ryan Watt is honest with himself, 2014/15 will not go down as one of the better years of his hockey playing career; changing clubs again mid season, playing only 35 games between the two and managing just 12 points and no goals. With no context applied to it looks like the addition of a depth guy who if they chip in points will be a bonus rather than expected. The thing is, and I said it when he joined in January, is a fit and motivated Ryan Watt is an asset to any team he plays on.

Watt’s record speaks for itself; nearly 400 games in the EPL before he turns 26, just under 0.7 points per game for a British player including last season’s less than stellar return to go with 3 playoff titles, 2 cups and 1 EPL league title. There is no reason where, if the stars align, that Watt won’t just be an asset but a real points scoring asset for the Bison.

Some have scoffed at the press release where Ryan says he’s set himself the target of 20 goals. Firstly, what was he going to say? “Well I was terribly snake bitten last season so I’ll be happy to hit the broad side of a barn”? Probably not going to happen if we’re honest. Secondly, it’s a show of his natural confidence. Watt has always been a brash, bold player; you can see it in the way he plays so a bit of bravado in his signing announcement was to be expected in some ways.

How Watt will be used is a subject of debate; the press release mentions him playing alongside Tomas Karpov last season and Aaron Connolly in training and it’s likely he’ll be used in both situations at times to start the season with Sheppard’s usual mixing up of the lines. If Watt’s speed holds up and he can be that replacement for Melachrino then it’s certainly worth trying him with Karpov but given his physical edge he likes to play with then a line with Connolly as the two race around crashing and bashing would not go amiss. The club’s PR certainly gives the impression that both will be tried.

Hockey has taught me that you can rarely write anyone off. The Bison were reportedly mad for playing Michael Wales with Karpov and Melachrino and we all know how that worked. Reports are that Watt has been working very hard on his fitness in the summer to be ready to roll come next month. If we get the Ryan Watt that finished last season then he will have his uses. If we get the Ryan Watt of old, he will be deadly.

Welcome back, Ryan; bonus points if you don’t get the hair cut all season.

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