Although the mid-tournament cancellation of the 2022 World Juniors Championship was certainly a disappointment for Los Angeles Kings prospect Brock Faber, the NHL’s withdrawal from the 2022 Olympics may prove to be a silver lining for the 19-year-old defenseman as he was recently invited to represent the United States at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games. Here’s a look at how he earned this coveted invite.
Team USA’s Situation
With the NHL’s withdrawal from the upcoming Olympic Games being announced just over a month before the tournament was set to begin, Olympic-qualifying countries’ general managers have had to immediately change course and start looking elsewhere for their Olympic squads. The withdrawal impacts some more than others: while teams such as Germany, Latvia, and Switzerland will just need to fill some holes in their rosters, the United States will be one of the teams that has to completely return to the drawing board as they were expected to carry exclusively NHL players.
Of the first 15 players Team USA has invited to the Olympics so far, the vast majority have come from two leagues: the NCAA (8) and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) (4). Rounding out the group are individual players from the American Hockey League (AHL), Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), and Swedish Hockey League (SHL).
The team is slightly more than half amateur. It will be interesting to see how these young college players and their older overseas professional counterparts are able to gel as a group, especially considering that they will have minimal practice time together before the tournament.
While Faber is certainly among the Kings’ top defensive prospects, his talent oftentimes tends to be overlooked by the hockey community as a whole. He was completely left out of the of the NCAA’s recent first and second teams and honorable mentions list. There are two main reasons why he was selected over some players that, on paper, would seem to be more likely candidates.
History with Team USA
Faber has a long history with representing his country. He first joined the United States’ Development Program (USDP) in the 2018-19 season where he posted great numbers with the U17 team, solid numbers with the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) team in the United States Hockey League (USHL), and he even got a single-game taste with the U18 team. In addition, he started his international career representing the United States at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The following season, he continued to play in the USNTDP where he drastically improved his numbers; however, he spent the majority of his time with the U18 team, posting 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 46 games. This solid play resulted in him being selected in the second round, 45th overall by the Kings in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
While he started his collegiate career with the University of Minnesota in the 2020-21 season, he continued to represent the United States internationality. He was also selected to join the 2021 World Junior Championship (WJC) team. Although he entered the tournament as a player who has been on the bubble to even make the team, in just seven games he managed to impress. He finished the tournament as one of their most trusted blueliners, playing in key situations en route to the coveted gold medal.
There was no question that Faber would return to defend the United States’ championship at the 2022 WJC. While the tournament was not finished, he was selected to serve as the team’s alternate captain, demonstrating leadership potential, and he was expected to play on the top defensive pairing for the duration of the tournament. This was a big jump for a player who was not even seen as one to surely make the team the previous year.
This history playing for a variety of official Team USA programs has given the United States scouts a certain confidence in him as a player and person. They know what they are going to get out of him because they have seen him develop since he was 16 years old.
Faber is a Dependable Player
The Unites States were not going to select Faber simply because they knew him: he had to earn this invite. He has done so by proving that he can be a dependable player, no matter what situation he plays in. He has flourished with the University of Minnesota. Following his freshman season, he was named to the Big-Ten All-Freshman Team and, in an expanded role this season, he has continued to develop well with the Gophers.
Although he would not be described as a “flashy offensive-minded defenseman,” he does show promise in the offensive zone, especially with regards to IQ that allows him to consistently make solid breakout passes. In addition, he is a player that thrives on the penalty kill and tight situations. While his offensive numbers do not top the NCAA, he is among the players with the most developed and complete defensive games.
In a tournament where he will be playing against a lot of pros, this defensive ability will be key, especially when considering that many of his opponents will be bigger than him. Team USA is wise in their decision to look at a more defensively-minded defenseman because they want to field a team that will be able to compete, not one that is solely composed of offensively-minded blueliners who are not ready to defend against professional forechecks.
The Olympics and Beyond
While he will not be able to represent his country in the way he planned at the WJC, he has the opportunity to do so at an even higher level: the Olympic games. This is truly a special opportunity for Faber as not many players get to say that they represented their country on international hockey’s biggest stage.
Although a USA team without NHLers will probably not compete for the gold medal, Faber will have the opportunity to showcase his skill and get some experience playing with professionals before he signs an entry-level contract with the Kings. Kings scouts will also be able to evaluate exactly where he is at and it could result in them offering to sign him to an entry-level contract following the conclusion of the NCAA season.
No matter what happens in the tournament and beyond, being invited to join Team USA for the 2022 Beijing Olympics is an incredible opportunity for Faber and it will certainly be enjoyable for Kings fans to watch him at the games.
As a native Angeleno, Katie Nash is a life-long Kings fan and experienced amateur hockey journalist. She is excited to provide her perspective through covering the Kings for The Hockey Writers.
Follow her on instagram @la.kings.hockey.