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A National Champion Eight Months Ago, Faulk Now an All-Star

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes

Justin Faulk has accomplished a lot in less than a year.

Michael Smith
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He won a national championship with the University of Minnesota-Duluth in April; he made his professional hockey debut with the Charlotte Checkers weeks later and played deep into the Calder Cup Playoffs; he made the final cut in training camp in October and began the season with the Carolina Hurricanes; and over the course of this season, he has cemented himself as a top six National Hockey League defenseman.

Now he can add All-Star selection to that list.

Faulk was named one of 12 rookies who will participate in the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Saturday, Jan. 28 in Ottawa. The rookie defenseman will be the lone Hurricanes representative.

“I’m really excited about it,” Faulk said. “You obviously wish you could have one of your teammates going there. The more you can get there, the better. But I’m excited about it, and I have my teammates to thank. I couldn’t do it without them or the organization for giving me a chance at the beginning of the year to prove myself.”

Thought head coach Kirk Muller wasn’t with the organization at the beginning of the season, he’s quickly learned what Faulk could bring to the blue line.

“I’ll be honest. I didn’t know a whole lot about him before I arrived,” Muller said. “But it didn’t take long to be impressed with a kid at his age with the hockey knowledge and skill level he has with and without the puck. He knows the game well. He’s a competitor, he’s got good skill and I’m really proud and excited for him that he can go into All-Star Weekend.”

Faulk has been reassigned to Charlotte twice this season, both in October. His most recent recall came on Nov. 17. Since then, he’s recorded 10 points (3g, 7a) in 26 games, becoming a prominent point-man on the power play and logging top minutes each night.

Though he was living in a hotel as a recently as Christmas, he might want to think about securing something more permanent now.

“It’s been kind of whirlwind for me. I’m excited about how things are going this year for me,” he said. “When I got sent down, it’s never the best feeling in the world. But you’ve just got to keep working, battle your way back up here and prove yourself. And I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with that in the past few months.”

Helping him get comfortable has been Jay Harrison, who has also worked his way to be a top defenseman on the team. The pairing of Faulk and Harrison has recently led the team in ice time. It’s also a combination that Muller has kept intact among the shuffling between the other two pairings.

“Harry’s been really good as a veteran guy working with him and talking with him,” Muller said. “They like playing with each other. They’ve had some good chemistry, and I think it’s a good combination to keep.”

Though Faulk will be the Hurricanes’ only delegate in Ottawa in two weeks, he isn’t going into the event completely blind.

“I’ve been talking to Bainer about it,” Faulk said. “He was a part of the rookie events last year, so he’s just telling me how it’s going to go. It’s nice to have other guys who have done this before in the past to help you along so you don’t get there knowing nothing about it.”

In last year’s SuperSkills competition, Jamie McBain, one of the 12 rookies selected to participate in the event, took part in the Skills Challenge Relay. McBain drew the tough task of making a saucer pass over a short barrier into tiny nets. He fared pretty well in front of the home crowd even though Team Staal lost that overall challenge.

While Faulk won’t know what SuperSkills event he’ll be participating in until All-Star Weekend, he’s got some ideas. Hardest shot, maybe?

“That’d be fun to see how hard [my shot] is and to battle Chara,” he said. “He’s got a bomb, so taking him down would be kind of hard.”

Until then, Faulk will be concentrated on the team’s six games before the break. All the while, he’ll be dodging chirps about his All-Star status from his teammates. He is a rookie, after all.

“They’re kind of all over me. It’s pretty funny, though. It’s all fun,” he said, laughing. “A few jokes here and there, and a few new nicknames going around.”

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