LA Kings RW Prospect Justin Auger Could Be A Future 3rd Line Upgrade

Ontario Reign right wing and Los Angeles Kings prospect Justin Auger, shown here in Game 1 of the second round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs against the San Diego Gulls at Citizens Business Bank Arena on May 5, 2016
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

LOS ANGELES — At 6-7, 229 pounds, Justin Auger is not the kind of player who one would, at first blush, think of as anything more than a checking forward. But the 22-year-old native of Kitchener, Ontario already has a Calder Cup Championship (2014-15 season with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs, now the Kings’ ECHL affiliate) and a 19-goal campaign with the AHL’s Ontario Reign last season.

19 goals for a checking forward? As it turns out, the development of the Kings’ fourth round pick (103rd overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft has been, in a word, remarkable.

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LA Kings D Prospect Zach Leslie Remains Positive While Biding Time With Ontario Reign

LA Kings defenseman prospect Zach Leslie (center, wearing number 8), shown here during a game with the
American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

LOS ANGELES — If you’ve never heard of defenseman Zach Leslie, unless you’re a fan of the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League, no one would blame you.

The 21-year-old native of Ottawa, Ontario, who was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2013 National Hockey League Draft, is now playing for the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Ontario Reign.

Actually, playing might be a bit of an exaggeration, because as a first-year pro, Leslie has been mostly on the outside looking in, so to speak, with the Reign this season, having played in just five games, contributing two assists, with a +1 plus/minus rating.

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LA Kings D Prospect Kurtis MacDermid Wants To Be More Than An Enforcer

LA Kings defenseman prospect Kurtis MacDermid (right), shown here during the 2015 Rookie Tournament against
the Arizona Coyotes at the Toyota Sports Center
in El Segundo, California, September 15, 2015.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

ONTARIO, CA — Even though the stereotype of hockey being nothing more than players fighting is still fairly strong among those who are unfamiliar with the game, those who follow it know that the frequency of fisticuffs in games has been on the decline for years and years. In fact, one can go weeks of watching games and never see a single fight.

Years ago, teams had a roster spot for an enforcer, a player whose only real talent was dropping the gloves and trying to clobber the other team’s enforcer. But today, National Hockey League teams cannot afford to reserve a roster spot for a one-dimensional player whose only skill is fighting. Indeed, today’s “enforcer,” if you can call the player that anymore, must be able to play the game.

Enter Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Kurtis MacDermid, who is now in his first professional season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.

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LA Kings D Prospect Nick Ebert Hopes To Solidify Spot With Ontario Reign

LA Kings defenseman prospect Nick Ebert
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — With the Ontario Reign’s inaugural training camp now underway, as they look ahead, there has been little talk about what their players achieved last season, when, as the Manchester Monarchs, they won the 2015 Calder Cup Championship.

Indeed, the focus has, as it has usually been, on developing young players for playing in the National Hockey League for their parent club, the Los Angeles Kings, and that was no different for Reign defenseman Nick Ebert, who was selected by the Kings in the seventh round (211th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Last season, his first at the professional level, was a bit of a mixed bag, seeing him score eight goals and add six assists for 14 points, with a +13 plus/minus rating and 18 penalty minutes in 45 regular season games.

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LA Kings 2012 First Round Pick Tanner Pearson Just Missed Being a 7th Round Pick In 2011

FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Did you know that, if not for one, critical decision back in 2011, Los Angeles Kings rookie sensation Tanner Pearson could easily still be toiling away in the minor leagues, getting limited ice time (and limited development) on the third or fourth line with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, and that he, and the Kings, might not have won the 2014 Stanley Cup Championship because of that? Indeed, that was very nearly the case. Part 1 of a two-part series.


LA Kings left wing Tanner Pearson, shown here celebrating the team’s 2014 Stanley Cup Championship with his family on the ice at Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 13, 2014.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net

EL SEGUNDO, CA — During the Los Angeles Kings’ remarkable 26-game run through the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, culminating in their second Stanley Cup Championship in the last three seasons, rookie left wing Tanner Pearson seemed to come out of nowhere, scoring four goals and contributing eight assists for twelve points, while playing on a line with right wing Tyler Toffoli and center Jeff Carter to make up what became known as the “That 70’s Line.”

That line gave the Kings a whole new look up front, and, in particular, gave the Chicago Blackhawks fits during the 2014 Western Conference Final—they had no answer for them.

For his part, Pearson used speed that had not been seen from him prior to the post-season to get to loose pucks and set up his line mates time and time again. In the end, the result was becoming a Stanley Cup Champion at the age of 21, and in just his first season in the National Hockey League.

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