Justin Faulk — Defenseman
Hometown: South St. Paul, Minn. Birthdate: March 20, 1992
Current Team: Carolina Hurricanes (NHL)
NHL Rights: Carolina Hurricanes (2nd Rd., 37th overall, 2010)
National Team Experience: U.S. Under-17 Select Team (2008), National Team Development Program (2008-10), U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (gold, 2010), U.S. National Junior Team (bronze, 2011)
This might be the first World Junior Spotlight I’ve posted where I didn’t believe the player had much of a chance to be part of the U.S. National Junior Team. It isn’t because Faulk isn’t good enough. It’s that he might be too good.
Faulk began the season with the Carolina Hurricanes and appeared in three NHL games before being sent back to AHL Charlotte for a little extra seasoning. Prior to Nov. 18’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina called Faulk back up.
In his second go at the big club, the kid looks ready. In his three games since being called back, Faulk has played 20-plus minutes, registered his first career point (an assist) and has looked every bit like an NHL defenseman.
Canes beat writer for the Raleigh News & Observer, Chip Alexander, tweeted this after Faulk’s third start:
Alexander also wrote about Faulk’s play so far:
Faulk, 19, played the first three games with the Hurricanes, was assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League and now is back up. Given his solid play the past three games – he had 24 minutes of ice time Monday in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers – Faulk may be around for a while.
It’s not a done deal just yet that Faulk won’t be available for Team USA. The Canes will have to make a decision when Joni Pitkanen returns to the lineup from injury.
Typically, if a player is playing in the AHL, the parent club will allow that player to go to the World Junior Championship (John Carlson in 2010, and multiple players in 2011, were loaned from AHL to Team USA). If said player is in the NHL, World Juniors is typically out of the picture.
If Faulk is unavailable, Team USA’s formidable blue line begins to thin out. Not having Faulk hurts, and WJC veteran Jon Merrill still hasn’t returned to game action for Michigan while serving a team-imposed suspension and may be out of the mix. There goes your top two right there.
The U.S. is lucky to have incredible depth on the blue line this year, but losing a pair of elite talents, if Merrill and Faulk are in fact unavailable, hurts in a bad way. There is simply no replacing those two.
There are going to be some tough decisions to be made over the next few weeks as we near the announcement of the pre-tournament camp roster.
There’s still plentyt of time left. The final tournament roster doesn’t need to be set until midnight the night before the WJC begins. If there’s any question, a spot will be left open for Faulk for as long as possible. He might miss the pre-tournament camp, but I would not anticipate that precluding him from being put on the squad if he magically becomes available.
There’s no question this is a tremendous accomplishment for Justin Faulk. While it may hamper USA Hockey, you can be nothing but happy for a 19-year-old kid who is realizing his NHL dream. Very few players get to play in the league that young, and the fact that the Canes have enough faith in him to get him 20-plus minutes a game is truly encouraging.
If Faulk has his way, I’m sure he’d prefer to be playing in the NHL. Still, if he ended up in the Red, White and Blue in late December, you won’t be hearing many complaints from Team USA fans.
More notes on Faulk:
– Second among U.S. defensemen at the 2011 WJC with four points (1g-3a)
– Played two seasons at the National Team Development Program
– Set the NTDP’s single-season record for goals by a defenseman with 21 in 2009-10
– Scored the game-winning goal in the gold-medal game at the World Under-18 Championship
– Prior to joining the NTDP, Faulk played for South St. Paul H.S.
– Helped the University of Minnesota Duluth capture its first ever NCAA Division I national title in 2010-11.
– Led UMD blueliners with eight goals and 25 assists
– Signed with Carolina upon conclusion of freshman season
– Appeared in 13 AHL Calder Cup Playoff games last spring with the Charlotte Checkers and posted two assists.
– Justin Faulk’s USA Hockey Bio
– Justin Faulk’s NHL Player Page
Every week, until the U.S. National Junior Team’s pre-tournament camp roster is announced, United States of Hockey will highlight a candidate for the team. We’ll be taking a look at players from the near locks to the dark-horse candidates to the out-of-left-field possibilities.