March 3, 2014
TORONTO– Carter Ashton picked up right where he left off last time he was dressing for the Marlies.
The 22-year-old scored three times on Sunday in a 5-2 win over the Lake Erie Monsters, in what was his second game since being demoted by the Maple Leafs.
Ashton scored Toronto’s first three goals by driving the net, tipping in a Greg McKegg shot and putting home two rebounds off the stick of Spencer Abbott.
“He took the game over,” said Marlies head coach Steve Spott. “You can see what he does at this level.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-winger now has 13 goals in 16 games this season with the Marlies. With the Leafs, however, he has yet to register his first-career goal despite playing 45 games over the past two seasons.
“He has to find that same confidence and swagger with the Leafs,” said Spott. “Here he does a nice job maintaining the puck, uses his body, he uses his speed and it becomes a weapon for him.”
Under Spott, Ashton plays top-six minutes, both sides of special teams and is a major contributor with the role he’s given.
With some line shuffling involved, Ashton played the left side on the top line on Sunday with Greg McKegg centring and Spencer Abbott on the right.
Abbott, who leads the AHL in assists with 46 in 52 games, has set up nine of Ashton’s goals this season.
“We’ve had some good chemistry together,” said Abbott. “Today he proved why he’s such a good player.”
“I wouldn’t doubt it, there’s chemistry for sure,” Ashton agreed.
With the Leafs Ashton hasn’t been as fortunate with line mates and has played mostly on the fourth line with enforcers.
While Spott believes confidence is a big issue for Ashton when he makes the transition up to the NHL, where he is situated in the lineup doesn’t help his cause.
Not only is it difficult for Ashton to get any offence going with the skill level he’s surrounded by on the Leafs-and the limited amount of minutes he gets on the ice-the Manitoba native seems to sway away from his style of play to impress Randy Carlyle.
Ashton hasn’t fought once this season with the Marlies, yet he has dropped the gloves three times with the Leafs even though fighting isn’t part of his skill set.
Prior to being sent down to the Marlies on Feb. 28, Ashton had been out of action since late January after injuring his hand. The setback wasn’t easy to overcome as it was his second injury this year after breaking his nose earlier in the season fighting Montreal’s Jarred Tinordi.
“It’s tough sitting out and trying to come back. It’s been a process,” said Ashton. “I kind of was on the ice and then had to take a couple steps back to let my hand heal again….Anytime you sit out, it was a tough injury being on and off the ice, getting back in a game was great.”
With the NHL trade deadline approaching on Mar. 5, it’s still uncertain what plans the Leafs have for the future and where Ashton fits into it.
Regardless, Spott believes Ashton should be in the NHL.
“Anytime you get sent down it’s never a positive for a player that’s an NHL player. And he’s an NHL player.”