• June 17, 2019

NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Watson focusing on what's ahead for Jackalopes - Odessa American: Sports

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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Watson focusing on what's ahead for Jackalopes

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Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 5:56 pm

As far as his plans go, Odessa Jackalopes’ new head coach Todd Watson isn’t concerned about the past with this team.

“We’re going to put it this way: ‘what’s behind us is behind us’,” said Watson, recently hired as the sixth head coach in team history. “We’re moving forward and building the best possible team that we can build. We want to play an exciting brand of hockey. We want to be an attacking-type team and a physical one.”

Watson replaced Greg Gatto, who resigned at the end of the 2018-2019 season after the Jackalopes struggled to a 21-35-2 record.

While he may be inheriting a rebuilding job, Watson is looking to keep things simple as far as his style of play.

“We want to be a team that’s very hard to play against,” he said. “We want to be an aggressive team. We also want to be good, defensively.”

One of the biggest steps in the team’s offseason priorities was checked off Tuesday as the Jackalopes drafted eight players during annual NAHL draft.

Next on the agenda is assembling his coaching staff, as well as getting in touch with the new additions from this week’s draft.

“The first priority was the draft,” Watson said by phone from his home in Saginaw, Mich. “Now that we have that out of the way, I need to put together our assistant coaches.

“I’m still looking through that list. I’m going to hit the road and visit a few players that we drafted as well as free agents that are out there.”

One position that the Jackalopes highlighted in this year’s draft was goaltending, drafting Zach Stern (second round) and Mathias Onuska in the eighth round, as well as a few position players that Watson feels will fit his style.

“I was content. We added a few goaltenders which is one area that we were looking at,” Watson said. “We also added a few players that we felt would work with our style from the USHL and then we added some skill to our lineup.

“I liked what we did in the draft. It looks great on paper but now the players have to come in and do it on the ice.”

Watson will move to the Permian Basin this summer as the team prepares for training camp at the end of August. Until then, he will hit the road to put the finishing touches on the roster.

“Right now I’m just worried about finding the right players and the tenders and the draft picks,” he said. “It’s about bringing the group together so that when I am down there, we have the best roster possible.”

>> Follow Michael Bauer on Twitter at OAMichaelba

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