On February 27th, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded defenceman Keith Aulie to the Tampa Bay Lightning for prospect Carter Ashton. Two days later he made his debut in Toronto with the Toronto Marlies where he picked up a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win. Not a bad start! After the game, Andrey Osadchenko had a chance to speak with Carter about his move to Toronto.
You just played your first game with the Marlies in Toronto. How does it feel like over here?
We’ve got a great fanbase here. Great hockey market. It’s great to play in a city like Toronto.
Did you have a chance to walk around the city and yourself familiar with it?
Not so much yet. I’ve seen both rinks now. Once I’m settled a little bit more, I’ll make sure to see around the city.
They say Toronto is probably the toughest city to play hockey at because of all the pressure that comes from the fans and the media. Do you feel it already?
There’s always going to be fans, media and other passionate people. It’s all part of it. However, to play at such a hockey market is a privilege. Especially for me, being from Canada. Now that I’m back in Canada, I’m looking forward to it.
Would you say pressure-wise playing in the Leafs organization is similar to what you were up against at the World Juniors where you played for Team Canada?
Yes, absolutely. Before the tournament we played one game at the ACC and then a lot of fans in Buffalo came from Toronto. They are very passionate fans. So, yeah, I definitely can compare the experiences.
How different are the Admirals from the Marlies?
Any organization has some similarities and differences. Obviously, here fans and media attention is a little bit different than in Norfolk. But like I said I’m excited to be a part of it.
Aren’t you a little sa d, though, that you’re no longer a part of the Lightning organization? Lots of players enjoy warm Florida weather. You can’t find it up here.
I enjoyed my time with Tampa organization. I was drafted by them 2 years ago. I was playing my first full season in American Hockey League with them. Getting traded over here is part of business. But I couldn’t be more excited about my opportunity here in Toronto.
Do you think you have a better opportunity to get a shot to play in the NHL with Toronto than you had with Tampa?
Either way I’m going to have to prove and earn that opportunity. It’s my first week here, I only played a couple of games. I’m just trying to do some little things and fit in as soon as possible and try to make that spot.
What would you say is your goal for this season? Try to called up and play a few games in the NHL, or patiently get more experienced down in the AHL?
Just taking it day-by-day. Marlies have been so successful this season, so I’m just trying to fit in, do little things right and contribute.
Is Marlies’ style of play any different from Admirals’?
I think it’s a little bit different. Anytime you come to a new team, there are going to be new systems. You’re going to have to adjust. I’m playing with all new players. It’s going to take some time to adjust and get comfortable in the locker-room. So far it’s been a pretty easy transition. All the guys are great and the coaching staff has helped a lot.
Does knowing that the Leafs have wanted to have you for quite some time help you to adjust?
Yes, absolutely. I didn’t know that they were pursuing me for that amount of time. Anytime you come to a team that wants you it’s exciting. So I couldn’t be happier being here with Toronto organization.
Did you want to play for the Leafs growing up?
I was watching them on Hockey Night In Canada. Being from Saskatchewan you always see them on TV. Being part of this organization is pretty surreal.
Norfolk has been very successful this season and so are the Marlies. Do you feel fortunate being a part of such successful teams this season?
Absolutely. Norfolk is having quite a run right now. I was lucky to a part of that and go through some wins and some up-and-downs. Then I was fortunate enough to be traded to another great team. We’re in great position going into the play-offs. Like I said I’m just trying to fit as soon as possible.
There seems to be a lot of dynamic going on between you and Joe Colborne. Do you feel that perhaps the timing is just a little bit behind and it’ll really come together after some more practices?
Absolutely. It’s going to come. We had shifts where we just dominated down low and created some great opportunities. We connected for that one goal there. But we can be better. Obviously, I’m looking forward to spend this time together, get that chemistry going and get more comfortable with each other on the ice.
Dallas Eakins is a kind of coach that likes to communicate with his players. What were his first words to you?
Before the Wednesday game it was a lot of systems. I was just trying to fit in and adapt. He tried to ease me through it.
If you look at Marlies powerplay, there are a lot of chances there. Is that something you find yourself easily fitting in?
It’s a privilege to be on a powerplay unit. You always have to perform. We had some good chances. We got the puck to go around well. Couple of breaks didn’t go our way. But as I said it’s a privilege to be on a powerplay with so many offensively gifted guys.