For a young player, adjusting to the speed and skill of the NHL is very difficult and it usually takes years of development before they are ready to contribute full-time. This process is especially true with defensemen as most of them aren't ready until at least their early-20's. Young defensemen in the NHL are generally used in a more sheltered or offensive rule because they are still learning the game and are obviously going to have trouble facing pro-level forwards. This is the case with just about every young defensemen no matter how big or talented they are because a good majority of them are coming straight from either a junior level or college, which doesn't compare to what they will have to deal when they get to the NHL.
It takes a really special talent to make it in the NHL at a very young age and there have been only 16 defensemen since the lockout who have played more than 30 games in the big show before they turned 20. One of those 16 players is Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes. Faulk still has a ways to go before he is a top-tier defenseman but his pro career got off to a great start this year. He was playing over 20 minutes a night, was used in just about every situation and looked incredibly poised for someone his age. He was also arguably the team's best puck-mover last season with Joni Pitkanen on the shelf for most of the year.
The major concern with Faulk is his defensive game. He had trouble controlling possession at even strength and the Canes gave up a lot of scoring chances when he was on the ice. The ongoing explanation for this is that Faulk is still very young and most players his age playing his kind of minutes would fare no better. This got me thinking, how does Faulk compare to other defensemen his age? What situations were they playing in and how did they perform? Was Faulk better or worse than them and most importantly, what predictions can we make about Faulk's future based on it?
After the jump, we will look at the 16 defensemen who played at least 30 games in the NHL before their 20th birthday and see how Faulk's performance during his rookie season compares to them.