Wichita Adds Another Returner in Brayden Watts
August 16th, it was announced that Brayden Watts would be returning for his second year in Wichita, and playing pro. Watts is now the 8th player from last season to return for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
2020-21 was a solid rookie season for Watts, as he appeared in 62 games contributing 10 goals and 20 assists for 30 points, also appearing in 4 playoff games having 2 assists. He was also voted as the teams “Most Improved Player” from last season.
It wasn’t too difficult for Watts to make the decision to come back. “I think just the fact we have a little bit of unfinished business. Also I just love Wichita, the city, and all the guys from last year. Being from Bakersfield too, I just want to stay in the farm system with Bakersfield to hopefully make the Condors one day.”
Pushing the eventual Kelly Cup champs to the ropes, they have a chip on their shoulders for this season. “From the very beginning of the year, after the first couple of weeks, we knew that we had something special. We had every intention of winning the championship, and just a few bounces here and there could’ve went either way in that Game 5. I think that all the guys returning, we still have that chip on our shoulders. We want to win and we want to be winners next year.”
Watts, being a part of the Bakersfield organization in addition to it being his hometown is also convenient for his summer plans. “I’ve just been doing my basic training with one of the Condors intern guys who runs us through some workouts, and I’m fortunate enough to have two big guys from the team: Brad Malone he’s the captain, and Luke Esposito. They stick around in town so we work out together, and skate right now about 3 times a week.”
The shorter off-season is quite the adjustment, considering how long of one there was last year, due to COVID-19. “It’s been a lot different, normally I would be used to it, but last year we had so much time, it was almost a little bit too much time. So this year it’s just kinda getting back to normal.”
However, the shorter offseason hasn’t thrown him out of the loop too much. “We’re all kind of used to having a shorter off-season, around 2-3, 4 months. So it hasn’t been too hard on me I just took a little less time off than I did last year just because it is a shorter offseason.
With a good core group from last year’s phenomenal season making their return, it sets a pretty good foundation. “I think we all just want to have a good start obviously, and get into the playoffs. Once you get into the playoffs it’s anyone’s game.”
Heading into his second year, Watts is looking to bring his presence geared to more of the offensive side. “Personally, I want to have a high role offensively. Last year, and I kind of pride myself in being a two-way forward, I was in that role of playing a defensive role and I embraced it. But I think this year I want to have a little bit more of an offensive role with the team.”
When attending a hockey game, energy is one of the best things about it, and that’s one thing you can expect from Brayden Watts when you see him hit the ice. “Every night I’m going to bring everything I’ve got, and try to bring a lot of energy to the crowd, to my teammates. Whether it’s laying the body or making a big play.”
With Wichita being square one of his professional career, wearing that blue and white is special to him. “It’s awesome, coming into Wichita for my first year pro, and I’ll always cherish wearing the Thunder jersey because I’m starting my career here and I’m super excited to get back and wear it for another year.”
By Gabe Daniel