The Carolina Hurricanes came awfully close to making the playoffs last season. While they had great seasons out of Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner, one area they had struggles with was on defense. Cam Ward had a busy and great season in goal, but the Carolina blue line left a bit to be desired.
This offseason Carolina signed Tomas Kaberle away from Boston as a free agent but he may not end up being the most impactful season this time around. With training camp over with, rookie Justin Faulk is leaving a huge impression on everyone in Carolina. Coach Paul Maurice is loving the youngster’s play and GM Jim Rutherford is heaping the praise upon the former Minnesota-Duluth standout in a big way.
Chip Alexander of The Raleigh News & Observer gets the big compliments out of Rutherford about their national championship blue liner even saying that he feels Faulk is a top-four defenseman for them.
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.”
After seeing Faulk up close and personal in Lake Placid at the Team USA World Junior Development Camp, he’s a guy well ahead of the curve age-wise. Offensively he’s highly gifted. He’s a slick puckhandler with a great shot from the point. Offensively and on the power play, Faulk should help Carolina improve there immensely. With Faulk and Kaberle teaming up with Bryan Allen and Tim Gleason, it gives them a healthy balance between offensive and defensive play.
One thing they’ll have to watch with Faulk is his actual defense. He’s such a potentially dynamic player offensively that sometimes he does so at the risk of getting back to protect his own end. Paul Maurice and the Hurricanes veteran defenders will help him work those things out.
At 19 years-old Faulk is going to make a few mistakes, but his upside is tremendous and for Carolina, after seeing Jeff Skinner thrive as an 18 year-old last year they don’t have any fears about having a young guy seize the chance to make a positive addition to the squad. It makes for a heck of a year for Faulk as he was a key member of the Minnesota-Duluth national championship team back in April and now he’ll be starting in the NHL. They sure do grow up fast these days.