Carter Ashton – By Word And By Number

While this wasn’t an especially significant trade deadline for the near-term future of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They did however make one very significant prospect trade, sending away defenseman Keith Aulie for forward Carter Ashton (drafted 29th overall in 2009). From an organizational perspective, swapping out a defense prospect for a forward prospect makes good sense, as the Leafs are deep on the blue line.

What do we know about Ashton? After the jump, we’ll take a close look at his offensive production over the last few seasons as well as look at an in-depth scouting report.

We’ll start by looking at Ashton’s offensive production since his draft year:

Season League GP G A PTS +/- PPG EVG SH% NHLE
2008-09 WHL 70 30 20 50 -5 10 20 18
2009-10 WHL 65 24 27 51 -13 13 11 19
2010-11 WHL 62 33 38 71 -6 17 16 28
2011-12 AHL 56 19 16 35 8 5 14 15.1 23

The number on the far right is Ashton’s projected point totals over 82 NHL games. That number comes from Gabriel Desjardins’ League Equivalencies, which are generated based on the average performance of players jumping from various other leagues to the NHL.

It should be immediately obvious that Ashton’s overall point totals are nothing to get overly excited about. He was a pretty decent goal-scoring prospect in his draft year, though he stagnated over two successive seasons in the WHL. The even-strength goals number is particularly interesting – I can’t find shot data, but I’d guess that Ashton had a through-the-roof shooting percentage in 2008-09 that fell in successive seasons.

In some respects, Ashton’s current AHL season is encouraging. The shooting percentage is quite high, but probably not crazily so at the AHL level for a player with Ashton’s reported physical gifts. The encouraging thing is that Ashton’s basically scoring at the same rate at even-strength in the AHL as he was in the WHL – his numbers have dipped because (we may surmise) he isn’t getting prime power play opportunities to the same degree as he did in junior. But he is still scoring at even-strength, and that’s absolutely crucial for any young prospect, because NHL teams don’t just hand out power play time out of the gate.

Ashton’s numbers don’t really scream ‘big-time NHL scorer;’ if I were projecting him I’d expect him to be a big, strong depth forward who can chip in some goals now and again. Then again, he isn’t yet 21, and there’s a lot of story left to be written.

As for Ashton’s physical talents, it’s tough to beat this scouting report from the summer of 2011, courtesy of the indispensable McKeen’s Hockey:

[T]he son of former NHL journeyman Brent Ashton .. tall rangy winger generates very good top straight-line speed thanks to an extended stride .. incongruent skater though .. could shorten his steps in certain situations and must upgrade his balance and overall footwork which is inefficient and awkward at times .. lower body needs to get much stronger to play his style of game at the next level .. wants to be a physical torpedo yet lacks natural hitting ability .. displays poor timing, tends to use his arms instead of shoulder and body .. adept at wraparounds and curling off the boards into shooting lanes .. prime weapon is a heavy wristshot, accentuated by unusually-long body extensions .. not overly intuitive away from the puck – can be slow to identify defensive assignments .. will benefit from learning pro systems .. raw project has some NHL-caliber tools to work with.

In short: he’s big, he can shoot, and his skating is decent. Beyond that, he’s still something of a project.