Michigan Tech thought their 2013 recruiting class was complete as recently as May when they had found a third goaltender in Marcus Zelzer but both Zelzer and Marcus Ericsson, a defenseman from Sweden, failed to qualify as athletes according to the NCAA. Zelzer was replaced by Matt Wintjes but the Huskies were still searching for a rearguard in August when Cliff Watson was narrowing his choices. Watson had been committed to Ohio State and their coach Mark Osiecki, but after Osiecki was fired, Watson and a handful of other recruits decommitted. Watson, however, was the only player expecting to start his college hockey career this fall. Michigan Tech was also one of the few schools with scholarship money available so late in the recruiting process and it was a perfect match. The Appleton, Wisconsin, native played in 62 games for Sioux City of the USHL last season, where he anchored the blueline using his size to be a physical presence for the Musketeers. Before heading to the USHL, Watson spent time playing for Appleton United (USHS–WI) and Team Wisconsin where he put up big numbers, including 18 goals and 40 points in only 21 games.
The 6’2″ defenseman caught the eye of NHL scouts in his USHL rookie year and was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 6th round of the 2012 NHL Draft. Due to injuries to upper classmen Daniel Sova, Justin Fillion and Jimmy Davis, Watson and his fellow rookie defenseman, Shane Hanna and Chris Leibinger, have been forced to dress for every game thus far and all three have looked good. The d-man has been paired with junior Riley Sweeney the majority of the season and matched well with the more offensive-minded Sweeney. Watson fits the mold of the big physical defenseman, similar to Daniel Sova and captain Brad Stebner. He’ll be expected to be the stay-at-home guy while his partner takes the offensive chances when given the opportunity, and Watson will be there to protect against the breaks and defend well. Until the injured upperclassmen return, Watson will continue to see regular time and based on his play so far, he won’t give up his place in the top 6 easily.