Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Justin Faulk: Carolina Hurricane

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I've been all over the prospect of former UMD defenseman Justin Faulk making the Carolina Hurricanes for months. For me, this isn't really a surprise, just an affirmation of something I felt pretty strongly about as the summer got started.

Faulk -- who starred for UMD during last season's national championship run -- signed with Carolina after the year ended. When I talked to him in July, he was a confident young man who felt like he really had a shot to be in the NHL this fall.

Wednesday, the Hurricanes trimmed their roster to 23, as mandated by NHL rules, ahead of Friday's season opener against Tampa Bay.

Faulk is among nine defensemen on that final roster. And if you believe head coach Paul Maurice, Faulk has a real shot of sticking around for quite a while.

After Wednesday's practice, Maurice spoke to the media about a number of topics, including the final cut (former Cornell star Riley Nash) and Faulk. Here is a transcript of his Faulk comments.

He's had a great camp. We've got a lot of faith in him. We really like the way he's played, and I think he has the opportunity to continue to get better.

Like I said yesterday, we're not pulling Justin in and showing him a lot of video about things he has to learn about the game. He's got a lot of great instinct to play defense and a nice little offensive upside. So we are comfortable putting him in the lineup.

Faulk, 19, won't be the youngest defenseman on the team. Ryan Murphy, 18, was Carolina's first-round pick this summer. He is on the roster after a huge offensive season for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers last season and a great training camp.

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford's thoughts on Faulk?

Canes general manager Jim Rutherford was discussing personnel and roster decisions to be made today when a question was raised about Justin Faulk and whether Rutherford would consider him one of the team's top six defensemen.

"No," Rutherford said, "in the top four."

What has impressed Rutherford the most about Faulk, who's 19 and was enrolled at Minnesota-Duluth this time last year and set to play college hockey?

"Pretty much everything," Rutherford said. "To think that he's 19 years old, and to have the composure he has, and the way he handles the puck and the way he handles different situations, how he moves the puck, how he skates. He knows the game.

"I haven't seen many flaws in his game to this point. This is great for us. We knew we had a good player in Justin, but as a defenseman we always say it's going to take longer. But for him to do what he did in the preseason as a 19-year-old is pretty impressive."

The lesson learned here? For starters, the U.S. Junior National Team will be missing one of the top returning players (at least in terms of age eligibility) if Rutherford is at all accurate. No way the Hurricanes make Faulk eligible for the World Junior Championships if he's still on the NHL roster. The only way he plays in Alberta is 1) when Carolina heads to Edmonton and Calgary in December, or 2) if he somehow struggles in the NHL and the Hurricanes send him to AHL Charlotte. If that happens, Faulk could be available for the U.S. team.

Otherwise, no chance. And good for Faulk, because he's an example of a player who wasn't going to get any better in college hockey. That he has been deemed NHL-ready out of his first pro training camp says a lot about college hockey's ability to develop elite-level talent.

So, even though he only went to UMD for one year, Faulk is a guy College Hockey, Inc., can look at as a positive story about the game and its potential impact on player development.

1 comment:

robert said...

I'M a big fan of Justin's. I love reading this.,