One bright spot for the Carolina Hurricanes this season has been the emergence of rookie defenseman Justin Faulk. At only 19 years of age, Faulk played top-four minutes on the Hurricanes defense corps and didn't need to be sheltered from tough competition. His development has occurred at a much quicker pace than anyone could have expected and it's gotten a lot of fans excited about his future. Some even say that he should have been the finalist for the Calder Trophy, which I do agree with.
The fact that Faulk was playing 20-25 minutes a night at such a young age is impressive enough, but I was a bit skeptical of his performance. If you look back to my statistical review of the Hurricanes season, you'll see that Faulk wasn't winning the battle at even strength because he was giving up a lot of scoring chances. That is a cause for concern but I don't think it's too alarming given Faulk's age. He only just turned 20, so I don't expect his game to be fully polished yet, but even strength play wasn't the area where Faulk shined this season, it has actually been special teams.
Even strength is usually the best way to measure a team or a player's performance, but special teams also play a big role, and whenever the Hurricanes were on the powerplay or the penalty kill, Faulk was arguably their best player. We will look into this after the jump.
A player's performance on the powerplay is usually judged by goals and points, but those aren't the only things that should be looked at. In order to score on the powerplay, the team with the man advantage has to get into good position to create shots and scoring chances. The general rule of thumb is that if the powerplay unit is creating at least 1-2 scoring chances per opportunity then they are on the right track. Creating chances with the man advantage is something that Faulk excelled in, especially compared to the rest of the defense.
|Player||Goals||Points||PP TOI||PP SCF||PP SCF/15 mins|
PP TOI = powerplay ice time, PP SCF = powerplay scoring chances for, PP SCF/2 mins = Powerplay scoring chances per 15 minutes.
These are the Hurricanes' defense corps powerplay numbers and as you can see, Faulk was one of Carolina's best players at creating chances. Joni Pitkanen was the only defenseman who produced chances at a higher rate. Faulk also produced more points on the powerplay than any other defensemen, which shouldn't surprise anyone because more chances leads to more goals.
Something that might raise a few eyebrows, though is that Faulk wasn't as effective at creating shots during 5-on-4 play. He ranks in the middle of the pack in that category, and it's pretty interesting when you compare to how he performed in terms of scoring chances. Could this indicate that most of the shots that Faulk is on ice for are of higher quality? Possibly. It is still a tad odd to see that he and Jamie McBain's numbers are completely reversed when you compare shots to scoring chances.
Faulk's play on the penalty kill, however, was fantastic and it doesn't matter if you go by either shots or scoring chances.
|Player||SH TOI||SH SCA||SCA 2mins||PK SA/60|
Whenever Faulk was on the ice, the Hurricanes were surrendering fewer scoring chances than they were with any other defenseman by a considerable amount. Taking into account that Faulk regularly played on the second unit and had over 100 total minutes on the PK this season, him giving up such a small amount of scoring chances is unbelievable. Although, I do have to admit that it's strange to see him play so well on the PK but struggle to prevent chances at even strength. Most players tend to give up more shots and chances when they kill penalties but that wasn't the case at all for Faulk. It could be him adapting to the team's PK system quicker than their 5-on-5 defense but I'm not complaining about the results.
The Calder might be out of Faulk's reach this year but I think he should be satisfied with the way he played in his rookie season. His performance on both the powerplay and penalty kill was outstanding and his play at even strength is only going to improve as he gets older and adjusts to the NHL. He was the best defenseman of this year's rookie class and has a bright future with the Hurricanes.