Cliff Watson is a defenseman for the proud AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, the Ontario Reign. However, Cliff was originally drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 NHL draft to the San Jose Kings. Throughout his hockey career, Cliff has played for four AHL teams, three ECHL teams, and played in college at Michigan Tech. Along the way Cliff has amassed many awards and even was named to the ECHL All-Star team in 2018. In his three years playing at Michigan Tech, Cliff earned the Gitzen-Loutit Memorial Award as the team’s most outstanding defensive player in each season he played for them and was named team captain his final year. In an interview with 2aDays, Cliff gave advice to all the young hockey players who wish to play at the college and professional level.
2aDays: What is the best piece of advice that a coach has given you and who was that coach?
The best advice I received from a coach was from Coach Gary Shuchuk. He told me when you think you are working harder than other players, just know somewhere else another player is working harder. There are a lot of players to compete against.
2aDays: What advice can you give to that athlete who is on the edge of playing but can’t quite get off the bench?
If a player is struggling to get off the bench the best thing to do is just keep working and competing. Positivity towards yourself and teammates goes a long way too.
2aDays: You were the team captain at your college, what are the two characteristics an athlete needs to be a good leader?
Accountability and being a good communicator are two essential characteristics.
2aDays: For athletes who are looking to become a leader of their hockey team, what advice can you give them as far as preparing for some challenges that they might face?
For a team captain just knowing that there will be so many ups and downs during a season. And try to keep all the players level headed and positive during the season.
2aDays: What makes a great teammate?
Great teammates are players who hold themselves accountable as well as their teammates and strongly represent their teams both on and off the ice.
2aDays: What advice can you give to athletes who are looking to go pro? What is the main thing that they need to know?
For athletes looking to go pro, the first thing I learned was that it really becomes a job. It’s how you make a living and taking care of your mind and body become especially important.
2aDays: What are some of the challenges you faced when you were looking to get drafted?
Some challenges would probably be making sure I was on teams where I was getting scouted and seen by all the different NHL teams. Also, making sure I was prepared every night because you never know who is watching.
2aDays: Why Michigan Tech over the other schools that were recruiting you?
The reason I chose Michigan tech was the whole culture and passion that surrounded the hockey team. Along with academics, it was tough to beat.
2aDays: What are three qualities that a high-school athlete should possess if they are looking to play hockey in college?
A high school athlete should be competitive, passionate, and driven.
2aDays: How can high school athletes get on a college coaches radar?
The best way to get noticed by college coaches is by going to summer camps and trying out for different junior teams before the season. A lot of college coaches go to these camps to scout.
2aDays: Social media is huge for athletes, and sometimes they might post some inappropriate posts? What advice can you give to athletes as far as using their social media in a positive way when it comes to their sport?
The rule of thumb for social media is only to post things that you know your parents would be ok seeing. Also, always check over what you post a few times before posting it.
2aDays: What was the most challenging part of the recruiting process?
Just making sure it was the right choice was stressful and also making sure they had academics that I was interested in so that aside from the rink I was doing what I liked.
2aDays: Would you recommend that high school hockey players play juniors before attending college? And if so can you recommend which ones are the best to get recognized by pro scouts?
Absolutely, attending juniors is the best for development before college. Allows you to get stronger and grow up before playing against kids a lot older than you. The best league for college is the USHL.
2aDays: Who is your favorite NHL player, and why?
Shae Weber, defensemen who really plays a unique style of hockey.
2aDays: What is your favorite pregame song?
I can actually listen to anything the teams want to before the games. Any kind of pump-up song works for me
2aDays: What is your go-to meal before a big game?
Chicken parmesan is my usual go to meal with pasta.
* Originally published on October 7, 2019, by Joshua Raj