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Scouting the '09 Draft - Carter Ashton

One of more than a few Western Canadian kids that will available when the Flames make their pick in the first round, Ashton is a big right winger for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. This was his first full season in the 'dub after an injury limited him to 40 games and just 9 points in his rookie campaign. He was the only Hurricane to pierce the 30 goal barrier this year.

highly recommended NHL Draft Notes blog describes Ashton thusly:

At his best down low and near the crease - has a knack for the garbage goals. Great ability to protect the puck. Boxes out like a basketball player when battling along the boards. Some question his skating, but I think it's a plus. Stride looks a bit odd, but has good speed, balance, and not bad quickness.

At 6'3" and 200+ pounds, Carter is an imposing package and looks to be a "text book power forward" according to Remmerde, who lists assets such as strength, ability to win puck battles and soft hands in close in his review of the player. All are nice things to have and are "projectable" to the NHL.

That said, this kids numbers raise some red flags in my head. Firstly, while he was leading goal scorer on his club, he was actually 5th in terms of total points (50) and 6th in terms of PPG pace (0.71). Of the top 10 scorers on the Hurricanes, Carter scored the most PP goals (10) and had the worst plus/minus (-5). Remmerde also notes that Ashton slumped in the second half of the season after being taken off a line with leading assist man and point getter Colton Sceviour. The downturn was a marked one and visible by glancing at the game-by-game results: from January - March, a period of 31 games, Ashton scored just 9 goals and was a cumulative -18. Yikes. That slump continued into the post season where he scored just 1 goal and 3 points in 11 games (and was a team worst -8).

By the numbers, there are lot of issues with this kid. His rookie season (though admittedly injury shortened) was unremarkable. His production was context-dependent in his sophomore year (power play, or skating with the club's best play making center at ES) and he got scored on a ton. His packaging may be first round worthy, but his results should come with a warning label.

Why the Flames might pick him

All the Sutter cowbells are accounted for: big Western Canadian kid playing in the WHL. You can bet the Flames scouts like that he can't be knocked off the puck too easily and is a bear in the corners as well.

Why they might not pick him

Assuming they ignore my sort of quantitative analysis, it may just come down to if he is available when the club is picking. The team also has a similar (probably superior) player in Greg Nemisz at almost the same stage of development, so the org may look to diversify it assets rather than pick for redudancy.   

Other Carter Ashton links:

Hockey's Future feature article.

BC Hockey Now article.