After thinking about leaving the Fort Wayne Komets, Chris Auger realized he didn't want to go anywhere else.
``There was part of me that thought I was going to move on because I thought it was time, but when it came time to make a decision it was pretty hard to turn away coming back to Fort Wayne,'' the 25-year-old winger said Tuesday. ``They have really stuck by me.''
The Komets announced signing Auger, returning forward John Dunbar and rookie defensemen Joe Hartman, Kyle Follmer and center Scott Fleming on Tuesday. Dunbar scored five goals and 10 points in 17 games last year with the Komets.
Auger skated in four games last year before being knocked out for the season with a knee injury. He says he's 100 percent healthy now and can't wait to get started.
``I think it's going to be a pretty different culture around the team,'' Auger said. ``I think people will look at the roster and question what's going to happen, but you never know until you go on the ice and start that journey. I like what I'm seeing on defense, and I like that we're getting younger, faster and bigger.''
That's the goal, according to Komets coach Gary Graham. He's especially pleased with adding Hartman and Follmer to the defense.
``These two guys were big players, who played big minutes and had big four-year careers at big programs,'' Graham said.
Hartman measures 6-foot-3, 204 pounds and had big years at Miami of Ohio, especially during two great seasons as a freshman and a sophomore when the RedHawks were challenging for the national title. Follmer is 5-11, 202 pounds and has better offensive numbers but also a bit of meanness.
``I think Hartman is capable of breaking out and doing some things offensively,'' Graham said. ``Follmer is tough as nails, he hits and he has an edge to him.''
Fleming is the wild card of all the Komets' signings so far. The 5-11, 170-pound center grew up playing with Auger in juniors with Wellington, scored more than 100 points during his college career at Dartmouth and played six games with Gwinnett two years ago in the ECHL before quitting to get a job. Now he's coming back to hockey.
``I have a lot of confidence in Scott and Aug coming in,'' Graham said. ``Neither one played last year, but they are extremely competitive and they can be relied upon with and without the puck. They are very detailed on the defensive side. The question will be how quickly they can knock the rust off.''
With 15 players signed already, Graham said the Komets have 24 contracts to fill, and now the team is aiming for high-end offensive players like a No. 1 goaltender, an offensive defenseman and a top-line center.
``We have some things cooking, but we're getting bigger and faster,'' Graham said.