Recently I re-read "Moneyball", the book by Michael Lewis about Billy Beane's quest to find inefficiencies in baseball's player market to build a successful ballclub on a shoestring budget.
In that book, there is a chapter that covers a pre-draft meeting with Beane, his assistant GM Paul DePodesta, and the A's scouting staff, which introduces the paradigm shift Beane intends on bringing to the A's club. In addition to Beane infamously scolding his scouts for "trying to sell jeans", he is relentless in challenging the scouts for projecting these payers to be capable of doing things that, to date, facing lesser ocmpetition than they would face in the pros, they have proven incapable of doing. Beane sees the scouts looking at these players as what they could be, while he looks at what they've done and views them as what they are.
I bring this up because when I started writing these articles, that description made me think of two players in the Leafs organization. One wsa Carter Ashton.
When he was drafted by Tampa Bay late in the first round in the 2009 Draft, Ashton had many of the tools that scouts fall in love with; a big frame that they could foresee him filling out into a powerful NHL forward, and strong awareness on both sides of the puck that could make him a strong two-way winger.
But while projecting what a player will become is an inexact science, Ashton's offesnive prowess through his WHL career never seemed to match what the scouts would say he would become. While his offensive totals in the WHL were adequate, they were never overpowering. And the offence has not translated to the AHL; after a promising rookie campaign with Norfolk (35 points in 46 games), Ashton has struggled to put the puck in the net since the Lightning traded him to Toronto for Keith Aulie.
Ashton has a number of physical tools, plays with a physical edge and has proven himself a capable defensive forward at the AHL level, and in spot duty in the NHL. But, as Billy Beane might have asked his scouts, "If he can be a scoring power forward, how come he hasn't done it?" That question leads us to drop Ashton four places this time around.
#37 / Left Wing / Toronto Maple Leafs
Apr 01, 1991
Eye Color: Sad Puppy Dog Green
The struggles Ashton faced in his sophomore pro season were captured in our rankings; all three newcomers ranked him below 20, birky dropped him 10 places, Chemmy 9, and PPP 8. He actually improved three places on my ballot, and SkinnyFish improved him by two spaces.
With 91 points, he had a comfortable advantage over Brad Ross, but was well behind the #18 prospect.
I'm not sure where Ashton's offence went, but at 22 years old and going into his third full pro season he damn sure better find it if he still wants to be an NHLer.
Sad face. At least he's not Keith Aulie, I guess.
Ashton's role on next season's Marlies team will have changed; going into his third professional season, Ashton will be seen as one of the leading forwards. With the team's key young players such as Nazem Kadri, Matt Frattin and Joe Colborne having moved up, and with key veterans such as Mike Zigomanis and Tim Connolly having moved on, Ashton will be expected to fill one of the top roles on the Marlies, and be an offensive leader. If Ashton can return to his rookie season scoring levels, he will have a chance to re-establish himself as a solid top nine prospect.