Rookie Spencer Watson traces his fast start to the power of two.
It might be too-too much to construct a story this way, but attention should be paid when a second-round pick — the second of the Kingston Frontenacs' second-rounders in April — is tied for second in points among players drafted into the Ontario Hockey League last spring. The Frontenacs nabbed Watson with the No. 24 overall pick after he received glowing notices as one of the best pure goal scorers in Ontario minor hockey while playing for the London Jr. Knights. Few expected that at the quarter-pole, he would be playing on a top line.
Like the Erie Otters' Connor McDavid, Watson represents his birth year on his jersey. In his case, wearing No. 96 symbolizes the birthdate for both he and his twin brother Matthew Watson, a defenceman also drafted by Kingston. The pair who were born two minutes apart 16 years ago are separated this season, but Spencer Watson is drawing on their bond regularly.
"It's a great way to develop everything," says Watson, who's slight at 5-foot-10 and 157 pounds but seems to have the goal scorer's gift for finding the sliver of space to get a shot away. "We both push each other so we get that competitive edge to push each other and make each other that much better ... You always want to one-up the other one."
Growing up in London, Ont., Brad and Julie Watson's only two children augmented their hockey curriculum on a massive backyard rink their father painstakingly built every winter.
"Ninety by 35 feet — about half a regular size OHL rink," Spencer says. "We spent of a lot of winters out there just fooling around. That backyard rink and having a twin also helps a lot, We're both the same."
The Otters' 15-year-old McDavid leads all rookies in scoring. A trio of relatively more seasoned 17-year-old Europeans, Sarnia's Nikolay Goldobin, Sault Ste. Marie's Sergey Tolchinsky and Sudbury's Dominik Kahun, have the next three spots. Watson, who scored a dagger goal with 4:19 left Tuesday when Kingston beat rival Ottawa 7-4, is tied for fifth with the Oshawa Generals' Michael Dal Colle.
Dal Colle, who has played like someone much older than 16, has older linemates in 19-year-olds Tyler Biggs and Boone Jenner, both candidates for their countries' national junior teams. Watson is playing on an all-rookie line with 16-year-old centre Sam Bennett and 18-year-old Finnish newcomer Henri (Hank) Ikonen. Kingston has won 3-of-4 games since coach Todd Gill put them together.
"I think Spencer's surprised a lot of people," Gill says. "We all knew he had talent and skill, but thought he was was a little slight and it would take him a while [to adapt]. He's not the quickest guy — he's not slow, but he's not the quickest — but he's slippery. He's playing some of the best hockey on the team."
Gill notes Watson's recent outburst stems from trying to keep him away from top-end defencemen. Watson began the season on a line with 19-year-old centre Darcy Greenaway and overage captain Cody Alcock. Gill's line shuffle has paid quick dividends; Kingston had seven scorers on Tuesday, with No. 1 centre Ryan Kujawinski getting his first goal in 32 days.
"I liked him [Watson] on on Darcy and Cody's line, but I felt he was seeing some pretty tough defencemen so I thought let's put him with Bennett and he can see some of the fourth-fifth-sixth defencemen and then they started rolling," Gill says. "Unfortunately for him, now he's going to see the best defencemen. Nothing seems to faze him. He gets excited but it doesn't go to his head. He and Sam read off each other every well and Hank provides a little bit of snot on that line where he can bang and crash and yet he has a little bit of skill."
The Frontenacs (.476 point percentage through 17 games, eighth in the Eastern Conference) are all about flashes of potential this season. Conveying that their young core — such as Bennett, Watson, Kujawinski, 16-year-old defenders Roland McKeown and Dylan DiPerna — will be the nucleus of a future contender. They looked the part by times on Tuesday, especially when Watson bagged the clinching goal after he, Bennett and Ikonen cycled the puck well.
Moments such as that make it easier for Watson to forget that he was not a first-rounder. He can also look forward to the chance of being reunited next season with Matthew Watson, who's playing for the Strathroy Rockets.
"Whatever we could do to go to the same team, that's what I wanted," Spencer Watson says.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.