QUEBEC CITY — The prospects for the Princeton Tigers’ season took a hit this week when defenseman Dominique Auger, an ECAC all-rookie team selection last year, signed a contract with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The loss of Auger is a severe blow to Princeton, where it isn’t easy to recruit players of his caliber. Princeton coaches describe Auger as a legitimate pro prospect and a player who could have been an All-American.
“We’re disappointed with his decision but wish him well,” said Princeton head coach Don Cahoon. “He’s a terrific athlete, a terrific student-athlete, who would’ve done real well here. I wish him good luck.”
Last season, Auger scored seven goals and 16 assists in 33 games, including four power-play goals.
Princeton finished with a school-record-tying 18 wins last season, and was counting on returning its entire core of defensemen, and most key forwards, in hopes of its first-ever NCAA berth.
Auger, a native of Levis, Quebec, called Remparts general manager Raymond Bolduc last week saying he would like to play for his team. According to Bolduc, he had never previously spoken to Auger.
Auger began working out with the team last Tuesday, and signed earlier this week. Princeton coaches were stunned to learn Auger was in Quebec’s camp, though Cahoon had spoken at length with Auger last spring about his future. Cahoon thought Auger might be courted by the Canadian national team, but when that didn’t happen, he figured his star defenseman would return.
Playing in the Canadian major junior system makes Auger ineligible with the NCAA, which considers the major juniors a professional operation. As a 20-year old, Auger has just one year of eligibility left in major junior hockey, whereas he had three at Princeton.
Auger can make between $150 and $500 per week in major juniors, in addition to room and board and expenses. Bolduc also said the team has given Auger a three-year scholarship to a Quebec college, in the event that he doesn’t play professionally.
Bolduc said Auger cited the desire to play more games and have a better chance at the pros as reasons for his interest in the Remparts.
This is a microcosm of the issue for the ages — the differences between college hockey and juniors, and the constant struggle for U.S. colleges to compete with the major juniors for players.
“Both ways are good,” says Bolduc. “It depends on where you want to go.
“If you want to go pro, it’s the short way; you’ll play more games. That’s the problem with college. And they play with a full visor.
“But as I always say, if you are a good player, you will play pro.”
Cahoon isn’t so sure that major juniors is the fast track, especially for Auger.
“It’s a little premature,” said Cahoon. “If the [International Hockey League] called next year, and he was physically strong enough, I would’ve been the first to help him. Hopefully he won’t forget about his academics because he’s a bright kid.
“I could sit here and get really upset about it, but we’ll make do like every other program makes do.”