Rookie Faulk justifying All-Star selection
RALEIGH, N.C. -- In the span of nine months, Carolina Hurricanes' rookie defenseman Justin Faulk has gone from a star leading Minnesota-Duluth to the national championship to an NHL All-Star.
The 39 weeks filling that sizeable gap since winning a college title have been full of an emotional roller coaster, and certainly plenty of change for the 19-year-old from South St. Paul, MN.
And Saturday night versus the Boston Bruins, Faulk continued celebrating the news by scoring the tying goal with 6:02 left in the contest and was on the ice when Jay Harrison netter the game-winner with 1:30 left to play in the 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champions. An Eric Staal empty-netter 28 seconds later finished off the scoring.
"It's nice when we contribute offensively," Faulk said about himself and Harrison, who has mentored the teen. "Obviously, our main focus there is if you get the puck started to have a pretty good offense… It was nice to get some offense."
After the exhilaration of the NCAA title, Faulk played 13 games for the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL (Calder Cup) playoffs, made the Carolina Hurricanes' opening night roster, was sent back to Charlotte and brought back twice, the last time keeping him with the big club for good.
Faulk was also named to the U.S. World Junior team, but couldn't continue on because of his NHL obligations. Now, Faulk will play in the All-Star Game in Ottawa on Jan. 29.
"It's been a fun year for me," said Faulk, who is one of 12 rookies that will be involved in the Skills Competition the day before the All-Star game. "I'm honored to play on all of these teams I've been playing on and I'm going to keep fighting to make good things happen."
In addition, Faulk was living in a hotel in Raleigh until recently. What a whirlwind the last nine months have been?
"It's the way it is. It's sometimes part of the game," he said. "I'm going to keep coming in every night, play as hard as you can and be mentally ready… and the physical part. But there's a lot to the mental part, and you just have to bear down and be ready to go."
Hurricanes phenom Jeff Skinner made the All-Star Game a year ago as a rookie last season as an 18-year-old rookie. Eric Staal, who won the MVP, and goalie Cam Ward joined him in the majestic event that was held here in Raleigh.
Faulk learned of the selection several days ago, but his teammates found out first and walked into the room he was sitting and offered the news. Faulk thought they were kidding so he got online to make sure, and there his name was as an All-Star.
Last recalled on Nov. 17, Faulk has four goals and 11 points on the season, but four points – two goals and two assists – in the last five contests. He's beginning to justify his selection.
"There's a lot of people in the league still unaware of how good this guy is," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "He'll go up and get showcased in Ottawa, and I think after that the exposure is really going to take off."
Muller said highly skilled young offensive players are easy to notice, but those who don't often have the puck on their stick sometimes get overlooked. But the Canes' staff is impressed by how Faulk executes his zone coverage, how he uses his body against bigger bodies and the maturity needed to play that way.
"That's very impressive for his age," Muller said. "He's going to get better, his composure with the puck has been great. He's going to be really good."