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In the System: Canes Have Solid Core of NCAA Defensemen

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes have an exciting core of young defensemen currently playing in the NCAA, three of which were the in the Canes’ 2010 draft class. With all but one player’s season now complete, here is a look at each of them.

Michael Smith
Brian Dumoulin

Brian Dumoulin recently wrapped up his sophomore season at Boston College as the Eagles made an early exit from the NCAA Tournament in an 8-4 loss to Colorado College. Despite the disappointing end, Dumoulin had another strong season as he led his team and the Hockey East conference in defensive scoring (3g, 30a).

With this offensive upside to his game, many thought Dumoulin might leave school after the season. However, Dumoulin announced last week that he would remain at Boston College for his junior year.

“We certainly did talk to him about making the jump,” said Jason Karmanos, vice president and assistant general manager of the Hurricanes. “But at the end of the day, you can’t force a player to leave school. That’s the decision of the player and his family, and the organization respects that decision.

“We agree that he needs to get stronger and that there are things he can work on, but we also felt that he was ready for the next challenge,” he said. “It won’t hurt him to go back, though.”

Dumoulin’s numbers this season, which included a plus-23 plus/minus rating, earned him New England Hockey Writers Division I All-Star Team honors. He was also the top vote-getter for New England’s Best Defenseman.

“He had a tremendous year and took his game to another level,” Karmanos said. “He displayed more on-ice leadership and was able to accomplish more offensively.”

After being drafted by the Canes in the second round during the summer of 2009, Dumoulin led the nation in plus/minus (plus-40) and totaled 22 points (1g, 21a) in a stellar freshman campaign. That, combined with his numbers this season, led to a roster spot on the United States team in the IIHF World Under-20 Championship in Buffalo this winter. In six tournament games, Dumoulin recorded two assists.

“We’re really encouraged by the progress he’s made in just two years of college hockey,” Karmanos said. “He’s not too far away from playing at the National Hockey League level, but the player needs to be comfortable with the decision to leave early.

“We feel that he will be on our blue line here in Carolina at some point in the future.”

Danny Biega

Danny Biega’s Harvard Crimson dug themselves into a hole early in the season, losing 18 of their first 22 games, including two seven-game losing streaks. But the Crimson finished their season strong by winning eight of their last 10.

Similar to Dumoulin, the sophomore Biega led his Ivy League conference in defensive scoring this season with 11 goals and 19 assists. The 30-point total also made him the overall scoring leader on his team.

“Danny put up some big numbers in that stretch at the end of the season,” Karmanos said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to judge a player who’s playing on a struggling team, but it’s good to see that when they were playing well, Danny was a big part of that push.”

Obviously with the numbers Biega put up this season, the 19-year-old defenseman’s upside is his ability to contribute on the scoreboard from the back end.

“You can see that his play with the puck is his strength. He’s good on the power play, and he’s a good skater,” Karmanos said. “He’s not the tallest defenseman, but he’s very, very strong for his size.”

Also like Dumoulin, Biega was named to the New England Hockey Writers Division I All-Star Team. He was also named to the All-Ivy League first team and the ECAC Hockey All-League second team.

“He’s just a sophomore, so for him to be a leader on his team, that’s good to see,” Karmanos said. “We look forward to not only him having an even better year next year, but hopefully the team as well so he can play in more situations.”

Mark Alt

The more defensive defenseman of the bunch, Mark Alt recently completed his freshman year at Minnesota. After being drafted 53rd overall (2nd round) by the Hurricanes this past summer, Alt made the jump to collegiate hockey from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul.

“Coming from where he did in playing high-school hockey the year before, we are very encouraged with what he showed in his freshman year,” Karmanos said. “We feel like he adjusted very well to that jump in play.”

Not unlike the other young defensemen in the Canes’ system, Alt made an impact in the lineup in just his first year. However, the 19-year-old, U.S.-born defenseman does play a more physical, defensive-based game than the other three.

“He’s the type of player that wants to play physical,” Karmanos said. “With his big frame and his natural athletic ability, he was able to jump right into Minnesota’s lineup and play that style of game.”

In 12 games spanning from Nov. 20 to Jan. 29, Alt put together a streak in which he didn’t record a minus. During that time, he compiled a plus-6 and was even in seven games. He finished the season at plus-3.

“Next year, we’ll look for him to build on this first year and take his game to another level,” Karmanos said. “With a summer of solid conditioning under his belt, he will continue to add mass to that large frame of his.”

Justin Faulk

Justin Faulk is the only one of the Canes’ NCAA prospects still playing. After wins over Union and Yale, the latter of which was the No. 1 seed, his Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs will face off with Notre Dame on April 7 in the Frozen Four.

Like Dumoulin and Biega, Faulk was the top-scoring defenseman on his team this season with 8 goals and 22 assists. Through two games in the NCAA tournament, the freshman Faulk has 3 assists, all on the power play.

“He’s had an exceptional freshman year. He shows a great two-way game and some exciting upside on the offensive side of things,” Karmanos said. “He’s got a huge shot, and he knows how to position his body well to protect the puck all over the ice.”

Another U.S.-born defenseman, Faulk was drafted 37th overall (2nd round) by the Canes in Los Angeles this past summer. He also played with Dumoulin this year for the United States in the IIHF World Under-20 Championship. In six games, Faulk recorded a goal and 3 assists.

“He’s got a real comfort level on the power play,” Karmanos said. “With his shot, his vision and his skating ability, we think he’s got all the tools to project as a defenseman that can make an impact at this level.”

Of course, Faulk won’t make a decision on where he will play next year until the completion of his season.

“Certainly with the year that he’s had right out of the gate, he’s put himself in a position where it’s not out of the question to think that he may be able to make the jump,” Karmanos said. “But right now, obviously, his focus is on possibly winning a national championship. We’re excited for him that he’s in the Frozen Four, and we wish him the best of luck.”

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