Matthew Gunning, blog manager for Bird Watcher's Anonymous here on the SB Nation sports blog network, was in attendance at the NHL Entry Draft... And still around, Friday Night, for when the Lightning traded up with the Detroit Red Wings and selected Carter Ashton. He got a hold of Carter just after his selection by the Lightning:
Most Tampa Bay fans have never seen you play hockey, so can you give us a short description of your style of game?
Ashton: With my size, I like to utilize that and definitely kind of see myself as a power forward. I mean, I like the corners, I like to drive the puck wide of the net. I'm not necessarily like Kovalchuk, but I like to score goals down low.
Can you describe what a Carter Ashton goal looks like?
Ashton: I mean, it may be me shooting off the rush and going ahead and getting a rebound. Or else , I mean, finding a way to get to the net and taking it wide.
Of a shot, a pass, and skate; what would you consider to be your strongest attribute as a hockey player?
Ashton: I would say my shot right now. One thing I would like to do is to shoot the puck. And success has come from that this year and I've worked on that over the years.
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In the last two seasons, what area to you feel that you've improved the most; what have you worked on and tried to get better at?
Ashton: My skating, for sure. As a bigger guy, I was always kind of lanking, wasn't always the fastest on the team. So I mean, to play at the next level, what you have to do is to improve your skating. So it's a thing I've been working on and it's definitely come a long way.
Tampa traded up to get a shot at you. Did you have any idea that Tampa was interested in you?
Ashton: No, I had no idea. I mean, when they drafted me they told me that they'd been trying to get me for a while. It's definitely a great feeling to get drafted. And, I mean, I couldn't be more honored now and it's a long night.
There was a...I saw either a tweet or something that said that Tampa had you in their top 12. So they thought very highly of you.
Ashton: Yeah, I mean, like I said, that's an honor. It's a great feeling, and I guess, to be drafted it's a great feeling and an honor. It's a definitely an accomplishment and I couldn't be happier.
Did you have any expectations about whether you'd go in the first round, or the second round, coming into this?
Ashton: I mean, yeah, if you're someone from the outside you can look at the numbers, and you can look at the statistics and that. But, you know, I was coming in here and just wanting to enjoy the experience. And I have a lot of family down and definitely right now. I'm really...it's a nice feeling to go in the first round. It's definitely an accomplishment.
You'll probably sleep a lot better tonight?
Absolutely. I mean, to share with my family and my friends from Saskatoon - Brayden Schenn and Jared Cowen are two of my best buddies. So, to share with them tonight is going to be nice.
Any thoughts about when you might be ready for the NHL? Obviously the team will have a few things to say about that.
Ashton: You know, I feel that I have to grow into my body. I'm a bigger guy, and I think that's an advantage to have a bigger body in the NHL. I'm not going to pinpoint the year, I don't think. But, you know, I do feel that I have to grow into my body and have the strength for it.
Tampa Bay - what do you know about the franchise?
Ashton: I mean, I've heard everything positive. As a player, I mean, I had the opportunity to meet almost every player at the combine. So definitely I've only heard the positive things. And I can't wait to get the ball rolling and go from there.
Is it exciting to think about going to an NHL camp in the fall and seeing a guy like Martin St. Louis, or Vinny Lecavalier, maybe lined up against you or with you in practice?
Ashton: Absolutely. When you're a kid, that's what you dream about. You know, I can't explain that feeling and, I mean, I definitely look forward to that if that ever does happen. And to go to a camp is definitely a...it's the next step. It's the step after this, and it's a long ways away. You're going to have to do a lot of hard work to get there.
For, again, for Tampa fans who maybe haven't seen you; is there a current NHL player that you would aspire to...that kind of plays your style - and you would like to be like that player?
Ashton: You know, I can't exactly, you know, compare myself to an NHL player. But, you know, a player that I love to watch is Rick Nash. He's a player that I think is very exciting. He uses his size - he's a very big player - and he takes the puck to the net. You know, I feel, I mean, if I do grow into my body, and I do get a little stronger, I can utilize my size like that, too.
In your career so far, have you faced - you ever had a serious injury or or major point of adversity that you've had to overcome?
Ashton: I mean, nothing major. When I was 16, when I moved away, I broke my collar bone. Which was, it was the first practice of the season, you know? I was a kid moving away from home, you know, and didn't know what to expect. And that was probably one of the toughest things I've had to get over so far.