At Tampa Bay Lighting development camp, a familiar face is on the ice for the third consecutive summer. Carter Ashton, the 29th pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, looks to be another young piece of the puzzle being assembled by the club in a quest to bring the Stanley Cup back to Florida.
"Obviously I'd have to prove myself," Ashton told NHL.com. "But that's my goal, just to be in the NHL this season."
Although Ashton has not made his mark on the NHL just yet, his opportunity seems close. He had 33 goals and 71 points in 62 Western Hockey League games last season with the Regina Pats and Tri-City Americans. He also had 3 points in seven games for Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship.
This year's development camp affords an opportunity for prospects like Ashton to prove themselves against their peers -- with management and coaches watching.
"I think just kind of go out there and be positive and learn as much as you can in the opportunity we have," Ashton said. "We obviously have a couple skates and a couple of scrimmages to prove yourself."
Ashton said the Lighting have put together some off-ice activities in an attempt to bring the prospects together while also letting them learn more about the area. A trip to the beach was rained out, but a trip to a baseball game was planned as a part of the week's events.
"It's good to get some activities like that going and you see the city a little bit," said Ashton
The son of 15-year NHL veteran Brent Ashton, Carter has seen some time in the AHL the past two seasons -- 11 games with the Norfolk Admirals during the 2009-10 season, and two playoff games with Norfolk this past spring. He has 1 goal in 13 games.
"That was huge. When you get a chance to step up to the next level and get a feel for what it's like, it helps a lot," Ashton said of his AHL stints. "In junior I was obviously one of the oldest guys in the league and going to the AHL level, the game is a lot faster, a lot stronger."
If Ashton doesn't stick with the Lightning, he could start the season in Norfolk. Ashton said nothing has been discussed yet in regard to where he will start -- he also could be sent back to the WHL as an overage player -- but Ashton said he's looking forward to making his case for an NHL spot at training camp in September.
"Everyone's goal here is to just play at the NHL level," Ashton said. "I feel like I have to learn some things in the process, but I'm ready to prove myself."