FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson on Tuesday pleaded no contest to domestic assault but can have the misdemeanour charge dismissed if he fulfills terms of his judicial diversion program.
Mark Puryear, Watson’s lawyer, says his client must successfully serve three months of probation and complete both an in-patient treatment program and a batterer’s intervention program.
Now Watson faces an NHL investigation.
The NHL issued a statement Tuesday saying it has notified the Predators and the NHL players association that it will be "initiating a full investigation into the matter" to determine the extent to which league discipline may be warranted. The league also said in the statement that the team "understands and agrees fully with the league’s view as to the extremely serious nature of the situation and has pledged its full co-operation in the process."
The Predators said in a statement that it would co-operate with the NHL and wouldn’t have any further comment until the conclusion of the league investigation.
"Our priority right now is surrounding Austin, (his girlfriend) Jen and their family with the care and resources they need to heal and move forward," the Predators said in their statement.
Puryear said that Watson looks forward to getting back with his girlfriend and taking care of their baby daughter.
Watson, 26, was arrested June 16.
According to a Williamson County court affidavit, a Franklin police officer was flagged down by a witness to a possible domestic situation at a gas station. The officer noticed the passenger of a car "trying to back away from being shoved away." The report said the passenger said "stop" and was trying to cover her face.
Police said Watson told them at the time that he and his girlfriend were having an argument and he acknowledged that he pushed her. Officers said they found red marks on the woman’s chest, and she said Watson had caused them.
When Watson was arrested last month, the Predators said in a statement they "are still gathering facts and it’s not appropriate for us to comment further at this time." Team officials noted "this is a matter that we are taking very seriously and we will co-operate fully with the investigation by law enforcement."
Watson is a former first-round draft pick who scored a career-high 14 goals and had five assists in 76 games during the 2017-18 regular season. He had five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games.
Watson has 23 goals and 24 assists in 216 career regular-season games, all with the Predators.