Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk is quietly putting together a season that has Norris Trophy potential. Of course it is early, but he is setting a power play goal-scoring pace for defencemen that is remarkable. In Sunday’s 4-3 ‘Canes win against the Los Angeles Kings, Faulk notched his seventh and eighth power play goals on the season, both against Jonathan Quick no less. He is now ranked first among all NHL players in power play goals.
Faulk is currently the points leader for the Hurricanes with 15. Second is team captain Eric Staal with 12. Following the game against the Kings, Faulk is ranked seventh in points among all NHL defencemen. His new total of eight goals ties him with Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks for first in goals scored by defencemen.
When Faulk was announced as a part of the NHL All-Star game last season, there was murmuring by those who felt that he was not ready to be called an all-star. But, he silenced most critics with pundits seeing an emerging young defenceman with a scoring prowess, especially on the power play.
Hurricanes coach Bill Peters was high on Faulk at the beginning of last season. Peters said, “Here’s a young guy we want in the rush, want part of our power play whether it’s the first or second unit, and a guy we have really high expectations for.” Faulk is fulfilling those expectations and more.
Drew Doughty came in second in the Norris Trophy running last season. The LA Kings defenceman had seven goals and 39 assists. At 25, he is a couple of years older than Faulk, and some have wondered if this is his season to win the Norris. Thus far he has two goals and 10 assists. Sebastien Noren at Today’s Slapshot wrote in the preseason,
“If the Kings can find a way to create a little bit more offense, Doughty’s numbers should rise and he can be an even stronger contender for the Norris Trophy, as some of the voters seem to look more at the stat sheet than the actual player.”
I’m not entirely sure what not looking at the actual player means in that comment, but Doughy has two Stanley Cup victories under his belt, and cannot be ruled out as being in the mix for a Norris Trophy at season’s end.
Erik Karlsson won the Norris Trophy last season. A big part of the Ottawa Senators’ success last season, Karlsson had 66 points last season, 21 goals and 45 assists. The 25-year old is off to a great start this season with five goals and 17 assists. He will be tough to beat for the top defenceman award if he continues his current pace.
No stranger to being honored for his play, Karlsson also won the Norris Trophy in 2012. Last June, Greg Wyshynski wrote at Puck Daddy,
“Karlsson, who previously won the award in 2012, joins Chicago’s Duncan Keith as the only active defenseman with multiple Norris Trophy wins.”
Karlsson, Doughty and others will make the climb to the top very tough for Faulk, but he has what it takes to keep climbing.
Shea Weber has had a streak of snubs when it comes to the Norris Trophy. Last January I asked if he would again be snubbed. He didn’t win or even come very close. Weber is a defensive beast. His shot is like a guided missile aimed at the net, and he plays fast and tough.
Weber is not on pace to have a Norris Trophy consideration so far this season. He has 10 points on six goals and four assists. But, Weber is a superstar, and I would not count him out this early in the season.
For Faulk the future is wide open. His proficiency on the power play is the one bright spot that has remained consistent of late, and there is no telling how far he can go. Norris Trophy talk may be a whisper for Faulk right now, but I’m believing that in the very near future the whisper will become a very loud affirmation of his legitimacy.
— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) November 23, 2015
For more on Faulk, check out “Justin Faulk Emerging As Bonafide Number One Defenseman In Carolina” by my colleague with the Hockey Writers, Derek Neumeier.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.