There aren’t a lot of bright spots so far for the 2015-16 Carolina Hurricanes, a team that is currently 14th in the NHL’s Eastern Conference with a record of 7-10-3 and a porous goal differential of -18. Luckily for them, however, the biggest of the bright spots that they do have is standing out so exceptionally well that he is quietly becoming one of the best players in the entire league at his position.
23 year-old defenseman Justin Faulk is well on his way to a career year in his fourth season in the NHL. With eight goals and 15 points already he is on pace to easily surpass his career-high totals of 15 goals and 49 points, both of which came last year. It also seems quite likely that he will set a personal career high in ice time per game, as his current nightly average of 25:10 is well up from his previous best of 24:25, which also occurred last season.
If anything, the amount of minutes that he is playing each game will keep climbing up before it begins to descend as Faulk continues to showcase his prominence at both ends of the ice and in all situations.
Offensively, not only do Faulk’s 15 points lead all Hurricanes defenders, they’re the most on his entire team. He also currently holds a special lead league-wide, as his eight powerplay goals are the most in the entire NHL, ahead of big-name players like Jamie Benn, Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos.
“He pretty much is the power play,” Hurricanes forward Kris Versteeg said recently about his teammate Faulk. “When he’s shooting it we know he’s dangerous. Teams are going to have to start keying on a guy like that so it’s going to open up other players on the ice.
But don’t let those impressive offensive totals fool you: Faulk is no slouch on the defensive side of the puck, either. According to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, he is sporting a very solid 53.5 Corsi For percentage despite playing the toughest competition and highest percentage of defensive-zone starts of any defender on the team.
In other words, Faulk is excelling at everything that he is being asked to do. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Hurricanes coaching staff is giving him a full three minutes more ice timer per game than his closest teammate. Not only is Faulk being used like a bonafide number one defenseman, his continued and promising emergence is showing him off to be one of the best number one defensemen in the sport of hockey.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL