KENNEWICK -- Carter Ashton is a chip off the old block.
A strong and skilled hockey player, Ashton learned the game from his father, Brent, who had his son in skates at age 4 and coached his youth teams. From an early age, Ashton loved the game and wanted to play in the NHL, just like his dad.
"My dad has been a huge influence on my career," Ashton said. "To be on the ice with him when I was younger was special. I wanted to be a pro hockey player. I remember a little when he played for the Legends of Hockey, but him coaching me is what I remember most."
Brent Ashton said he never pushed his son into hockey but is happy he loves to play.
"He enjoyed it from the start, and as he got older, he put more time into it," said Brent, who spent 14 seasons in the NHL before retiring in 1994. "It's something he should embrace."
The Tri-City Americans forward has the same size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and skill his dad possessed during his NHL career. Though Ashton is a year or two away from the pros, he has used his skills to the tune of 17 goals and 27 assists in 33 games since coming over in a trade from Regina in December.
Ashton has a chance to help the Americans to another Western Conference title and a possible trip to the Memorial Cup when the first round of the WHL playoffs begins tonight against the Vancouver Giants.
"When I was traded here, I was excited," Ashton said. "It's nice to be part of a world-class organization and a good team. I've had a lot of fun, and I'm confident we can go far."
Carter's career has paralleled that of his father, who also got his feet wet in the WHL before going pro. Brent (Saskatoon Blades, 1976-79) was taken in the second round of the 1979 NHL draft (26th overall) by the Vancouver Canucks. In 2009, Carter was taken in the first round (29th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Carter, 19, has been traded twice in his junior career. His dad was traded eight times during his 14-year NHL career (1979-93), a record at the time.
"Through the years, you gain experience," Carter said. "Trades are part of the business, though he does have more experience with them than I do."
Brent, 50, guided Carter's career until he left home to play in the WHL for the Lethbridge Hurricanes at 16.
"I coached him all the way through," Brent said. "He played with Brayden Schenn, Jared Cowen and Linden Vey in the summer. I coached them all. If you have to be at the rink, you might as well be on the ice. I try to give a little of what I learned over the years. I am a student of the game. I watch more NHL now than when I played. It's nice to see the game evolve. You try to bring that knowledge to them so they have those skills."
Carter appreciates his dad's help through the years.
"It's nice to be able to share hockey with him," Ashton said. "We talk hockey, but he has put it in my hands since I have been in juniors. He has stepped back and let me find my own way."
Carter, who began his junior career in Lethbridge during the 2007-08 season, was traded to Regina last year, then to the Americans this season.
After being traded so many times during his career, Brent wasn't too concerned when his son was traded for the second time in his junior career.
"You definitely grow up quick when you leave home at 16," Brent said. "Being traded isn't easy, but it will make him a better NHL player. Every NHL team has a different system, different players and different roles they want you to play. With Carter going (to Tri-City) and playing right wing has been a good fit for him. It's good that he can play both (left and right wing).
"I was traded quite a bit because I could play center, left wing or right wing. It's better knowing that you are being traded because you can help a team, not because you aren't wanted."
Brent and his wife, Susan, will travel to Kennewick to see their son play this weekend. It will be their first trip to the Tri-Cities.
"Carter has been pretty excited," Brent said. "He wants us to see the arena, the fans and how exciting it is there. This has been a good move for him. He's happy to be in Tri-City and with a team that can make a run at it. The guys have made him feel welcome from the first day."
On a team full of Manitoba players, Ashton, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has fit in quite well. And he should.
"He was born in Winnipeg," Brent said.
Winnipeg was one of the last stops in Brent's career, and the Jets were the only team for which he played three full seasons. Winnipeg traded him to the Boston Bruins at the start of the 1991-92 season.
During training camp and the first seven games of that season, Brent shared the ice with Jets rookie Stu Barnes, now an Americans co-owner with Olie Kolzig.
"Stu called me when Carter got traded (to Tri-City)," Brent said. "He let me know they would take good care of him. It was nice to hear from him."
It won't be long before Carter begins his pro career, and Brent said his son has the tools to succeed in the NHL.
"It's different hockey from what we played," Brent said. "It's a little more European style. You have to watch the hooks and the holds, and you aren't taking a beating in front of the net. The game keeps evolving, and these kids are very talented now."
Like father, like son.
* Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org