In the eyes of the national media, Justin Faulk's rookie season went somewhat unnoticed as most of the focus was put on the likes of Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Read and Adam Henrique. Faulk obviously isn't in the same class as Landeskog or RNH and he did not put up the numbers that would earn him more national recognition, but it's hard to say that his rookie season wasn't special. Since the 2004-05 lockout, there have only been a handful of defesnemen who have been able to break into the NHL for a full year and very few of them played in the situations that Faulk did.
Defensemen usually take a long time to develop compared to other players, so you typically do not see a lot of defensemen in their late-teens or early-20's break into the NHL full-time. Faulk managed to do that last season and he also ended up leading the Hurricanes in minutes played per game, played regularly on both special teams units and was frequently matched up against opposing team's top-sixes. Considering that Faulk only turned 20 this past March, it's pretty remarkable that he managed to step into a full-time role with the Canes and play the minutes that he did. It should also make a lot of fans optimistic about the future because he has already gained a lot of experience at such a young age.
Faulk did have some growing pains when it came to preventing opposing shots and scoring chances, though as he was on-ice for the highest amount of chances against per 60 minutes among Carolina defensemen last season. The Hurricanes were also controlling less than 50% of the 5v5 shots when Faulk was on the ice, so while Faulk was able to step into a big role in the NHL, he had his share of problems. Last year could be considered "trial by fire" for him considering it was his first full year in pro hockey and he was thrown into a big role right off the bat, so I think he performed well in this circumstances.
The Hurricanes know they have a special player on their hands with Faulk but what should they expect him to do in his sophomore season. Some might say that he has already done everything the team has asked of him and more and while that might be true, this upcoming year for Faulk is going to be focused on improving himself as an all-around player. It's possible that Faulk could finish this next year as the team's #1 defenseman if he is good enough, but what can he do to give himself that title? In my opinion, it all starts with him improving his play at even strength and continuing to develop his solid two-way play which is leagues ahead of where many thought it would be.
Now, as far as projecting the upcoming season for Faulk in terms of goals and points goes, this s probably one of the toughest things to predict not only because he is a defenseman but also because he has played one year in the NHL and nothing more. Thus, it will be hard to base his projection off his past performance and instead, I'm going to base it largely off the type of minutes I expect him to play and what areas I think he will improve on this year. This will be a little different approach from my other projections but this is the kind of thing you have to do with a player like Faulk.no comments