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Lightning coach Rick Tocchet says draft choice Carter Ashton can earn a roster spot out of camp



With so much focus (and deservedly so) on the development of Victor Hedman, the No. 2 overall pick of the draft, Carter Ashton's development, generally, has flown under the radar. That is, until Thursday, when coach Rick Tocchet announced Ashton, Tampa Bay's other first-round pick who was taken 29th overall, would play tonight against the Thrashers on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay.

Then came Friday, and Tocchet's declaration Ashton has been so impressive, he could make the team out of training camp.

"You can't plan ahead," Tocchet said after Friday's morning skate. "You're thinking 18, 19 years old, he's going back to junior right away. But there is a possibility he could stay. He's shown enough in training camp, his skills, to warrant some games and see how he does."

"It's definitely something you want to hear," Ashton said of Tocchet's comments. "Now, I have to do my part. I have to take it day by day."

Ashton , 18, from Winnipeg, where the Lightning faces the Oilers on Thursday, is 6 feet 3, 205 pounds, and has shown a willingness in scrimmages to carry the puck and get to the net, a place where not many Lightning players ventured last season. His ability to get along the boards and get the puck, could be just what the combination of Lecavalier and Tanguay needs to be more effective. We'll see tonight.

"I do have a great opportunity," Ashton said. "It's going to be a great experience."

"I've seen his progression," Tocchet said. "I've seen him from prospects camp to rookie camp to the main camp. I've seen another level. In two months, he's done everything we've asked of him and he's done a good job. I'm pretty impressed with his play, absolutely." 

Ashton is not signed. If he does sign a contract, he could play up to nine regular-season games before the Lightning would have to decide whether to keep him or send him back to WHL Lethbridge.      

[Last modified: Sunday, October 18, 2009 12:15am]


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