Mike Watt was named the second head coach in team history on May 15, 2017.
After an 11-year professional playing career that included five seasons in the NHL, Watt has quickly ascended the coaching ranks to take over the reins for Flying Aces, which will play their fourth season in the USHL in 2017-18.
A standout forward at Michigan State University from 1994-97, Watt played three seasons under storied head coach Ron Mason and helped the Spartans make the NCAA tournament in all three seasons. During his collegiate career, he posted 98 points in 115 games, including 39 points during his sophomore season in 1995-96, which was good for second on the team. That same season, Watt shone on the international stage, winning a gold medal while competing for Canada at the World Junior Championship. In his junior campaign, Watt posted a career-high 41 points and led the Spartans with his 24 goals. He also served as an assistant captain for MSU during the 1996-97 campaign.
A second-round draft pick (32nd overall) of the Edmonton Oilers in the 1994 NHL Draft, Watt elected to turn pro after his junior season and joined the Oilers for the 1997-98 campaign. Watt went on to play more than 650 games professionally, including 157 in the NHL with the Oilers, New York Islanders, Nashville Predators, and Carolina Hurricanes. His best season in the NHL came in 1998-99 when he recorded a career-high 25 points in 75 games.
In addition to his time playing professionally in the United States, Watt also has international playing experience. The Seaforth, Ontario, native played two seasons in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg and one season in the SHL with Leksands IF.
After five seasons coaching high school hockey in Wisconsin, Watt began his coaching career in junior hockey with the Amarillo Bulls of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in the 2014-15 season. The Bulls are also part of CSH International, which is the Aces’ ownership group. After just one season in Amarillo, Watt was promoted to an assistant coach role with the Aces, starting with the 2015-16 season.
In his two seasons as an assistant coach for Central Illinois, Watt managed game film, developed scouting reports for opposing teams and oversaw the team’s defensemen. During his first season with the Aces, Watt helped lead a defensive effort that saw Central Illinois allow the second-fewest goals per game in the USHL.
While with Central Illinois, Watt has overseen the team’s defenseman and has helped develop several notable rear guards. In the 2015-16 season, Watt mentored one of the best defensive corps in the USHL, which included New Jersey Devils draft pick Jeremy Davies and Brogan Rafferty. Davies more than doubled his career-high and led USHL defenseman with his 49 points during the regular season on the way to being named All-USHL First Team. In his first and only season in the USHL in 2015-16, Rafferty finished with 28 points. He then posted nine points in 10 playoff games to lead all Aces defensemen. During the 2016-17 season, Davies and Rafferty both registered more than 20 points in their freshman campaigns at Northeastern University and Quinnipiac University, respectively.
This past season, Watt played a key role in Wyatt Kalynuk’s breakout campaign. Kalynuk finished seventh among league defenseman with a career-high 31 points on six goals and 25 assists. He became one of the most dynamic two-way defenseman in the league and led USHL blue liners with his 159 shots on goal, more than double his previous career high.
Prior to his college career, Watt played Canadian juniors. He spent one season with the Seaforth Centenaires before joining the Stratford Cullitons for two years. He also suited up with the Canadian Under-18 team in 1992-93.
Watt was a former teammate of the Aces’ Ontario Scout, Dave Williams.
Watt resides in Bloomington with his wife Niki, his son Liam (13), and his daughter Avery (9).
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