Ashman quick study in return to Knights

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

The OHL playoffs are everything Londoner Matt Ashman expected.

In terms of ice time, defensive partners and lessons learned on the fly, they have been even a little bit more.

Apart from seven regular-season games as a callup with London, the 16-year-old former Junior Knight spent most of his hockey campaign skating with the Collingwood Blues of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League. Ashman won top rookie and best defenceman with the Blues, who lost in two playoff rounds to give him the chance to rejoin the Knights just in time for the OHL postseason.

"It's been a great experience and it's nice to play in front of the best fans in the league," the six-foot, 180-pound former eighth-round draft pick said. "At first, I had a hard time handling the speed of the game but you get used to it quick. There's no substitute for the games. Practice has helped a lot, too. It's high-tempo out here."

Ashman has suited up for 12 of the Knights' 13 playoff games as London has searched all season for the right amount of depth at the back end behind Todd Perry, Scott Aarssen and Ryan Martinelli. With the bodies around at practice, everyone knows not to take a roster spot for granted.

Kevin Montgomery came in from Ohio State to fill part of the void but has been in and out of the lineup with injuries during the playoffs. Former first-rounder Corey Syvret was dealt to Guelph at the trade deadline and import Jakub Korinek merely had a mid-season pit stop here.

Captain Robbie Drummond has seen blue-line time this season and Matt Clarke has remained the Knights' favourite converted forward on the back end.

With veteran Trevor Solomon and youngsters Kevin Bodker and Tony DeHart often healthy scratches this spring, London has turned to hard-shooting Corbin Crawford, who scored in the Soo series, and Ashman to play important shifts in the most crucial games.

"From game-to-game, you never know who you're going to play with or if you're going to play five or 15 minutes," Ashman said. "You have to learn to adjust and be ready. The older guys have really helped whether it's by talking or just getting to watch how they handle themselves out there."

Though Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie brought some heat, the Plymouth forwards have made it tough on both the veterans and rookies on the Knights' back end. The Whalers like to forecheck hard to create turnovers and jam the slot area with bodies for some high-quality shots in tight around London goalie Steve Mason.

"Plymouth is big and the most important thing is to make a good first decision against them," Ashman said.


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