It’s been a pretty good campaign for Justin Faulk.
He’s an All-Star for the second year in a row, on the strength of 33 points through 51 games — seventh-most among NHL defensemen — and a whopping 12 power-play goals, which has him tied for second in the league with Jamie Benn.
Only Chicago’s Patrick Kane, with 14, has scored more.
And we mentioned Kane here because, leading up to this weekend’s All-Star gala in Nashville, one of Faulk’s Carolina teammates compared him to a pair of Kane’s running mates.
Kris Versteeg compares Faulk to two of his former teammates with the Chicago Blackhawks, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, veteran defensemen who have been a big part of Stanley Cup championships in Chicago.
“They were really good when they were young, but when they got to 25, 26, 27 was when you could really see what they were as players,” Vertseeg said. “Faulker is still a couple of years away from us seeing what he can really do. But he’s very mature for a young guy.”
And more, from head coach Bill Peters:
Peters said Faulk could be in the Norris Trophy conversation as the league’s best defenseman by season’s end, and in future seasons.
“He’s going in the right direction but there’s work to be done, right?” Peters said. “He’s still 23 years old and he’s got a real good upside and good future. The offensive instincts and the offensive play kind of fits his game, so that comes natural to him.”
As both Peters and Versteeg pointed out, Faulk is probably a couple of years from hitting his full potential. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember he’s still just 23 years old; he was the youngest player named to Team USA for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and, of all the defensemen taken at the 2010 draft, only Anaheim’s Cam Fowler has played in more games.
But it’s hard to deny his offensive talent translates into a high ceiling. And should he hit that ceiling, he’ll be a bargain — don’t forget that, in March of 2014, the ‘Canes re-signed Faulk to a six-year, $29 million extension, one that carries a tidy $4.83M average annual cap hit.