TLN Top Twenty Prospects: No. 11 – Carter Ashton


Name: Carter Ashton

Position: Right Wing

Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba 

Size: 6’3, 215 lbs

2013 Team: Toronto Marlies (AHL)

Acquired: Traded from Tampa Bay Lightning in February 2012

When the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Carter Ashton for Keith Aulie as the 2012 trade deadline loomed, I couldn’t contain my excitement. For one, while many had high hopes for what Aulie could become (so far, he’s fresh off a 7 point season with the Bolts), he was having a terrible year with the Leafs and Marlies. The "steadiness" he showed with the Leafs the year prior was gone, and when handed the opportunity to run the defence of his AHL team, he was caught flat footed, frequently out of position, and unable to make anything resembling an offensive contribution. I had gone from a fan to a critic in record time, to the point of thinking his departure was addition by subtraction, at least for immediate result. But primarily, I was really excited about the return. 

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When Ashton came to town, he appeared to be the prototypical Brian Burke prospect. He was big, he had a two way game, he drove to the net, and he wasn’t afraid to intimidate others. He already had 35 points in 56 games in his rookie AHL season. To top it all off, he was 20 years old! The Leafs had clearly hit the jackpot here.

Or did they? Ashton was called up to the Leafs after just seven games and three points. The move apparently was to be temporary, but a mis-recognized waiver rule lead to the Leafs playing him for the remaining fifteen games of the season, where he picked up 13 penalty minutes, a -10 rating, and most importantly, no points. He’d return in the middle of the Marlies playoff run, scoring a goal and two assists in six games to close off the year. To make matters worse, he closed it by losing the Calder Cup Finals to the team he had faced just months before. Would that work as inspiration?

If it did, it certainly didn’t show this year.

Team Games Games Played Goals Assists Points Pts/G
1 to 10 10 3 1 4 0.4
11 to 20 9 2 1 3 0.33
21 to 30 10 1 2 3 0.3
31 to 40 10 3 0 3 0.3
41 to 50 9 2 1 3 0.33
51 to 60 5 1 1 2 0.4
61 to 70 0 0 0 0 0
71 to 76 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 53 12 6 18 0.34
Playoffs 9 3 2 5 0.56
Grand 62 15 8 23 0.37

If anything, Ashton was consistant, usually being good for two or three goals and an assist every ten games,  The only issue with that consistancy is it was consistantly underwhelming for a guy of his skillset. In fairness, the team was filled with wingers and he wasn’t expected to completely light things up, but you still couldn’t help but feeled underwhelmed with his results.

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His regular season came to a crawl after breaking his foot, but he returned to the playoffs (custom made skate guard and all) and produced at his best clip of the year.

But you know what? I’m willing to throw away the numbers for this year, and give him a pass. In fact, despite everything I’ve said, I actually had him ranked 7th on my list, the second highest submitted to make TLN’s final results. The realities are this:

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  • While he doesn’t have a go-to in his arsenal that makes you go "wow", Ashton is more than capable of scoring in many ways. He’ll crash the net and fire a wrist shot, as seen above. He’ll sneak up on a goalie and puck up a rebound. He’ll take a slapshot from a distance, he’ll trail behind and finish a onetimer. There’s a variety to him. 
  • That said, he needs to shoot more. His 11 goals looks a lot better when you realize that he only took 103 shots. Granted, 10.6% isn’t exactly a marksman, but is above average. He needs a coach that will see size and hits and say "that’s top line material"
  • GREAT NEWS! The Marlies recently hired Steve Spott to replace Dallas Eakins. Odds are, all Ashton has to do is not lose his spot to Tyler Biggs. Ashton will be one of the veterans (I use that term loosely) on next year’s roster, and one would think that Spott will put him on the top line and give him opportunity to build an offensive role.
  • Even if that doesn’t work out, Ashton’s defensive awareness, willingness to drop the gloves, and extreme willingness to throw hits and get into dirty areas will get him a bottom six role in the NHL, at the very least. It could even be with the Leafs this year, if they get their cap situation in check enough to have somebody making a little more than a million on the fourth line (amazing, this could be an issue right now).

This year will likely give us the answer to what Carter Ashton will or won’t be. If he can’t take the opportunity and thrive, he’ may see sooner NHL time but with much less upside. But if he does? The Leafs may have a good prospect yet in him. He’s got so many of the tools that fit the mold the organization is trying to hype up, and to see them all come together would leave everybody salivating.

Or he can skip the tools, and go back to using mind tricks on goaltenders:

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#12 Greg McKegg
#13 Garret Sparks
#14 Brad Ross 
#15 Dominic Toninato
#16 Tom Nilsson 
#17 Tony Cameranesi 
#18: Connor Brown 
#19: Andrew MacWilliam 
#20: David Broll 
Honourable Mentions

Photo courtesy of @cathisms

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  • I hated the trade then and I still hate. I don’t know why people keep bringing up his name as a possible 4th. There are better options on the Marlies for that role. Aulie is a defensive defenseman so saying he only got 7 points i6 irreverent. While Ashton has been big and underwhelming in the the AHL, Aulie has for the most part been playing in the NHL,19 minutes a night I believe. If I could do the trade over.I wouldn’t do it. He looked good playing Phaneuf. But he sucked that year. Yes he struggled, it’s called being a 22 yr old Dman with about 40 nhl games of experience. They gave up on him way too soon. Well it can’t be changed now so I hope I am all kinds of wrong about Ashton, he comes up and scores 40 pts with a plus 40, but I doubt it. Meanwhile Aulie will be munching minutes and staying home being violent towards the other team…..Oh yeah, at 975k, how good would that look right about now? Aulie at 975k vs. Fraser 1.275?

  • I don’t think you can say the Leafs got ‘fleeced’ because Ashton hasn’t hit any sort of ceiling in his development. Ashton still have room to grow as a player, and could have just as much of an impact at the NHL long term as Aulie will have.

    That being said, I’ve been underwhelmed with what Ashton has done so far. He needs to be an all-around force this upcoming season for the organization to take noticed, especially considering the fact the organization is flush with young wingers.