Justin Auger Called Up from Ontario, May Debut With Kempe and Cammalleri

Seemingly designed in a lab to play in Darryl Sutter’s bottom six, how will he handle John Stevens’ setup?

Justin Auger was one of the final cuts from the Los Angeles Kings a couple weeks back, edged out for a roster spot by the surprising Alex Iafallo. After clearing waivers, Auger was well-positioned to be either the first or second forward call-up from the Ontario Reign, especially since he won’t be exposed to waivers again until he’s either spent 30 days or played 10 games with the Kings. You can start that countdown now, because with Kyle Clifford weeks away from a return, Auger is getting the call.

From the press release:

The 23-year-old Auger (born May 14, 1994) is a 6-6, 232-pound native of Kitchener, Ontario who has appeared in three games this season for Ontario, going scoreless with four penalty minutes. This marks his first career NHL recall.

Selected in the fourth-round (103rd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, Auger has appeared in 202 career AHL games with Ontario and Manchester, posting 85 points (43-42=85), a plus-30 rating and 178 penalty minutes. He played in all 19 games during Manchester’s 2015 Calder Cup Championship run, where he recorded two points (1-1=2) and eight penalty minutes.

With a six-game road trip starting this weekend, Auger might be here for a few weeks. Auger came in at #11 on our Top 25 Under 25 countdown, and we speculated that he could potentially fill a fourth line spot with a strong training camp. He didn’t make the team, but he held up his end of the bargain, scoring against Anaheim and showcasing his ability to protect the puck.

It’s an interesting opportunity for Auger, especially since through five games, Adrian Kempe and his rotating carousel of wingers have done nothing of note. So it’s a fairly low bar for Auger to clear, and if practice lines are any indication, he’ll also start by skating on Kempe’s wing. However, with Michael Cammalleri on the other wing, he might need help from Kempe and whichever defensemen are on the ice if he wants chances to score.

Considering he was tailor-made for Darryl Sutter’s system, Auger may be a little out of his comfort zone if he does indeed make his NHL debut against Montreal tomorrow night. Stevens will most likely deploy him primarily in the offensive zone, though, and if he can keep the puck there, he’ll be a fine fit. The primary concern I saw on Sunday with the Kempe-Dowd-Brodzinski line was that, even when they started on offense, they found themselves giving up possession almost immediately. Auger’s not a bad choice to fix that problem.

We’ll keep an eye on tomorrow’s morning skate to see if Auger gets his chance.