January 9, 2013
TORONTO– When Carter Ashton was demoted to the Toronto Marlies in early December, it would have been easy for him to go down to the minors and blend in with the rest of his team.
Instead, the 22-year-old elevated his game and earned a recall from the Maple Leafs on Wednesday by being the AHL club’s top player.
“He got off to a good start, he felt good (with the Leafs) and even when he came here he came with a good attitude and didn’t pout,” said Marlies assistant coach Derek King. “He knew he was down here and going to play and be the best player he could be and definitely by far he was our best hockey player.”
In 14 games this season with the Marlies, Ashton has produced 10 goals and 15 points, which has him fourth in team scoring despite playing less than half the season in the minors. In comparison, last season in 53 AHL contests the Winnipeg native registered 11 goals and 19 points.
“The goals come in dirty areas and I’ve learned that in a couple years of pro my game is in the corners, on the cycles and taking pucks to the net,” said Ashton, who has bulked up his 6-foot-3 frame to 220-pounds.
Despite the recent success Ashton has had with the Marlies, in his time with Toronto he has yet to shift his scoring abilities to the NHL level any time he has been called up. In 33 games with the Leafs he has just one assist and is still looking for his first goal.
“It’s different each level, you have to learn different roles and round your game out,” said Ashton.
“It’s not an easy thing to do but you got to try and not put so much pressure on yourself when you go up, it’s a tough enough place to play,” added King.
While Ashton has been heavily relied on and played with the top players on the Marlies, those opportunities haven’t come with the Leafs as he’s mostly found his minutes playing on the fourth line with guys who aren’t expected to produce.
“Here he’s a top-six, but his game doesn’t change up there” said King. “His game is a north-south game. He doesn’t need to over handle pucks, he needs to get on fore checks and bang bodies. He’s got to stir things up a little, bring some energy. He’s a great skater and has good hands around the net.
“I think his mental game is to the point that if you put him on the first line or the fourth line his game doesn’t change.”
There is no guarantee Ashton will translate his scoring touch over to the Leafs this time around, especially if he’s not given a chance to play with some skilled players. But, his recent play with the Marlies has rejuvenated his game and he’s looking more like the power forward who played with the Norfolk Admirals prior to being acquired by the Leafs via trade in 2012.
“When I started in Norfolk I got off to a really good start,” said Ashton. “I got acquired here and got a chance right away which was a great experience. Last season was a learning experience because of a couple injuries. This is the first full year I’ve started right from training camp and got into it right away.
“I think (scoring goals) is just a matter of playing with some confidence again.”
Centre Peter Holland was demoted to the Marlies on Wednesday to make room for Ashton.