Bio: I have been a fan of hockey for as long as I can remember. I started playing hockey when I was 8 and continued playing through university at the CIS level for the University of Regina Cougars. I am still involved in hockey, playing Adult Safe for fun and I coach my kids as well. We are a hockey-loving family and I decided to try my hand at owning a franchise after having a fairly successful run in the mock season for the UFHL prior to the official launch.
QUESTION: Fairly successful indeed, having secured a bye through the play-in round for the upcoming UFHL playoffs — thanks to a seventh-place finish in the regular season (fourth in the Legends Conference) — but more importantly finishing well ahead of your husband Matt and his Lions. That gives you bragging rights and I can imagine you let him hear about it? Matt has since sold his Lions franchise, which has me wondering whether he’ll be joining your Monarchs in an assistant/co-GM or scouting role? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em …
ANSWER: Haha, well the funny thing is that I am more into this whole thing than he is. Even given his hockey background, he has never really been a big fan of watching the game or following things too closely. I can’t say that I follow anything religiously, but I do try to see who might be the next up-and-coming stars to watch out for. That being said, he is usually along for the ride in most cases, so he will probably be helping me out from time to time.
QUESTION: I did a little investigative journalism to get your maiden name and looked you up on Elite Prospects. Turns out, you were a former teammate of UFF Sports executive Andrea Charanduk at the U of R. She was a goaltender and you were a forward, so I have to ask — how did those shootouts play out? Did you score more often than not? What was Andrea’s weak spot … if you can remember? What type of player were you?
ANSWER: Maybe you should ask Andrea about that haha. I am certain if we went head to head in 10 breakaways, I might score once. I’m not sure if that’s because she’s just that good between the pipes or if I’m just that bad at scoring, but I think it’s the latter — not to discredit Andrea. I never had soft hands and wasn’t great with the puck — if you saw my stats, it would be quite clear haha. I was more of a defensive forward and was usually tasked with playing the opposing team’s top line to shut them down. I was also a top penalty-killing forward and I loved that role. Everyone needs a role on a team and, for me, it was preventing the other team from scoring.
QUESTION: OK, all kidding aside, onto the serious stuff. You were lucky enough to land your favourite player — Nikita Kucherov — in the UFHL Draft. I assume he was your first-round pick and Victor Hedman was your second-round pick? You loaded up on Lightning players — getting a half-dozen, plus former Tampa ’tender Ben Bishop. You have an entire forward line from the Lightning. Safe to say you were happy with the draft results and your current roster?
ANSWER: I was happy to land Kucherov first and I was hoping to get Andrei Vasilevskiy as my goalie, but I believe he went in the first round too — big surprise. So I took Hedman next, followed by some really great players that I thought others might not be too familiar with because they aren’t big names quite yet. I have been following Tampa for a few years now, so I thought I might as well try to get a few of the players to make watching the games even more fun. I would like to strengthen the back end of my team as far as defence and goalies go, so I might have to start looking for some prospects in those positions. But to answer your question, yes, I was quite happy with my draft.
QUESTION: Have you been picking the brain of your father-in-law — Al Murray, who happens to be Tampa Bay’s assistant GM and director of amateur scouting — for insight on prospects to add to your protected list following the scouting auctions this summer? Or who to target in the UFHL Entry Auction, which is our version of the NHL Entry Draft? The Lightning don’t have a first-round pick for 2020 as of today, so you better get on him to acquire one — thus giving you an obvious target, right?
ANSWER: I haven’t picked his brain too much, I don’t want to have an unfair advantage over the other franchises haha. I’m only kidding about that. He works super hard at what he does, so when he’s not working, I don’t want to be picking his brain too much. But I might have to see who he can recommend as I haven’t been following things too closely with all the COVID stuff that’s been going on. I do have to say that he knows what he is doing and is really good at finding diamonds in the rough. He’s looking for all-around players that are going to make their organization proud both on and off the ice. I actually suggested a few guys I was thinking about protecting (adding to protected list) — I won’t mention names — but he basically told me that he figures they might only be 2-3 years in the NHL and then be done, so I didn’t protect them. With the history he has and the players he has drafted in both L.A. and Tampa as well as having picked the World Junior gold medal-winning teams in 2008 and 2009 (with Hockey Canada), I would take any advice he gave me, that’s for sure!
QUESTION: How are you enjoying the UFHL and the UFF Sports experience in general? What is your favourite part about this platform? What are you most looking forward to for the future?
ANSWER: I have never done any fantasy pools or drafts before because I don’t like that it’s a one-and-done thing. I really like that I can own my team for years to come in the UFHL. I like that I can scout for new players that are nearing draft eligibility and plan for future years. I also think the organization has done a really good job of building the platform and getting it started. I’m really anxious for the NHL playoffs to get going and for things to return to normal, so that we can get things back up and running.
Miles Wood-Pierre-Luc Dubois-Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn-Anthony Cirelli-Yanni Gourde
Lawson Crouse-Colton Sissons-Christian Fischer
Kyle Clifford-Frans Nielsen-Zack Smith
Victor Hedman-Nikita Zadorov
Jake McCabe-Nathan Beaulieu
Joel Edmundson-Nick Jensen
Extra Skaters: Carter Verhaeghe (F), Devin Shore (F), Ross Johnston (F)
Protected List: Eric Robinson (F), Yakov Trenin (F)
You can’t fault Ashley for grabbing players from her favourite NHL team for her UFHL franchise — and if there is a team to be loading up on, Tampa is totally the one. Any franchise anchored by Kucherov and Hedman is going to contend for the foreseeable future — in real life and in fantasy. For the record, Al Murray had a hand in drafting both those stars as the Lightning’s director of amateur scouting since 2010, with Kucherov becoming a total steal from the second round in 2011 (58th overall). That connection is too cool!
Cirelli was another steal for Tampa as a third-rounder from 2015 (72nd overall) and he’s one of those great players that Ashley was referencing as “not a big name quite yet.” Cirelli won me over at the 2015 Memorial Cup when he scored the overtime-winning goal in the championship game to defeat Leon Draisaitl and the Kelowna Rockets — the WHL team that I covered as a reporter from 2008 to 2019 before shifting my focus to scouting. Worth noting, Ashley’s husband Matt listed Brayden Point as his favourite NHL player of the present — yet another steal for his dad Al and the Lightning as a third-rounder from 2014 (79th overall). Cirelli might not get to Point’s level offensively and in terms of fantasy value, but he is quietly emerging as one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards and perhaps a future Selke winner.
Looking further down Ashley’s lineup, Verhaeghe has also been a late-blooming find for Tampa — debuting as a 24-year-old rookie this season after leading the AHL in scoring last year. Gourde came out of nowhere too, as an undrafted player that now has a 60-point NHL season on his resume. The Lightning have done a terrific job of drafting and developing over the last decade and much of that credit goes to Ashley’s father-in-law.
Ironically, I drafted for the Lightning as my lone team in our FC Hockey mock back in May, so Ashley and Matt will have to get Al to review my results for the 2020 NHL Draft: https://twitter.com/LarryFisher_KDC/status/1259298276437704705
Ashley is right about her weakness in wanting to bolster her defence beyond Hedman, but her goaltending should be in good shape as long as Bishop holds up. As Ashley would know from his Tampa days — and now in Dallas — Bishop isn’t overly durable despite being a Vezina-calibre goalie. Fortunately, Jarry emerged as a pleasant surprise for Pittsburgh this season — giving Ashley another solid option in net if (or when) Bishop is injured. Overall, Ashley’s roster is quite promising with Dubois also deserving a shout-out as a player with plenty of upside who might be just scratching the surface of his offensive (and fantasy) potential.
As for Ashley’s offensive stats from her playing career, we’ll keep that — and her maiden name — a secret. I know I wouldn’t want anybody seeing my save percentage as a Junior B goalie or with the Neilburg Monarchs (yes, I played for a senior men’s team named the Monarchs), but fortunately (unfortunately?) there isn’t an Elite Prospects profile for yours truly. I guess I wasn’t good enough to get on their radar — not as good as Andrea between the pipes apparently!
The hockey world is a small world and it’s neat how many connections we’re making here in the UFHL. Here’s hoping the Monarchs will be in the fold for the long haul!
I would like to strengthen the back end of my team as far as defence and goalies go, so I might have to start looking for some prospects in those positions.
— Ashley M.
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