Major pro-gress

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Six months ago, Jared Aulin couldn't care less if he ever played hockey again.

"I'm done with it," the 25-year-old Calgarian told the Sun just five years after debuting with the Los Angeles Kings.

After a handful of frustrating seasons in the minors, punctuated by an ugly stick-swinging incident that prompted him to press charges against a beer league assailant, Aulin was convinced he'd played his last game.

However, after spearheading a three-game weekend sweep that has the University of Calgary Dinos ranked seventh in the nation, Aulin is not only playing again, he's dominating like few in Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) history ever have.

So much so, that he's once again drawing plenty of interest from the NHL, where the former second-round draft pick may just be returning as early as next season.

Not only has player agent Don Meehan recently dropped a line to rekindle acquaintances, but Flames coaches Rich Preston and Wayne Fleming attended the Dinos game Friday, where Aulin worked more magic.

Forced to miss the team's first 10 games while sitting out a full calendar year from his last professional game, Aulin has helped turn around a team that started 1-5-4.

The Dinos are 14-2 in Aulin's 16 games thanks to his 14 goals and 20 assists, which has him second only to linemate Ryan Annesley in Canada West play.

"Without question he's the best player in Canada West -- it's not even challengable," said Dinos head coach Scott Atkinson, who found a loophole in CIS rules allowing Aulin to play this year.

"He can bring you to your feet because he rushes with speed, has great passes and, man, is he slick. He's elevated the whole team. You should see him at practice. He's not just putting time in, he goes hard."

Despite the fact a handful of players have graduated from the CIS to the NHL during the last decade, the league is not generally scouted. However, Aulin's play has brought out plenty of bird dogs of late.

"I can't imagine a bad team not taking a flyer on him. What do they have to lose?" said Atkinson.

"If he doesn't get a chance, there's something wrong with the hockey world. He's sure shown his desire. I think he's probably done some maturing."

Canada's third-leading scorer at the 2002 world junior championships and drafted in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche, the former Kamloops Blazers star played 17 games with the Kings as a 19-year-old before being buried in the minors.

Frustrated by years of injuries, amongst other things, Aulin returned home and played in a summer league.

It was there Quinn Risdon allegedly slashed Aulin across the neck baseball-style, knocking him unconscious, just missing his carotid artery and prompting Aulin to contemplate retirement.

Risdon will appear in a Calgary court today to make a plea after being charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Meanwhile, Aulin is the talk of the CIS, and will likely have a pro offer or two to mull over at season's end.

"I haven't paid attention to all that, but if someone is interested in giving me that opportunity, I'm going to listen," said the kinesiology buff.

"But if I did decide this is my last year to play because I want to stay in school, I can say I left the game happy instead of with a negative view. I'm having fun and playing a style I love to play as an offensive threat. I play with a smile on my face."

Thrilled to be living the life of a student who has met "a really nice girl," the man formerly linked to Paris Hilton is clearly content to settle down and stay in school if the right offer doesn't come along. He might even help coach.

"I'm just a guy who lost a passion for the game and wanted to pursue school," said Aulin, whose 15-7-4 Dinos open the playoffs at home Feb. 22.

"When you think about it, it gives kids an incentive to go to university and play and realize it's not the end of the world."

In fact, in his case, it could be the start of something big. Again.


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