Much is made of the Carolina Hurricanes youth movement. As of the end of the 2016-17 regular season, the Canes 22-player roster had an average age of 26.0 years, almost two years younger than the reported league average of 27.9. Isolate the defense and you'll find that the Canes seven blue liners have an average age of 23.9, a full FOUR years below league average manning the position touted as the one taking the longest to master. And leading that young core is alternate captain Justin Faulk, who turned 25 less than a month ago.
Faulk has been such a stalwart on the Hurricanes blue line, and so recognized across the league, that it's easy to forget he's a young player and still on the upside of his NHL career trajectory. After all, he's already an Olympian, an All Star multiple times over, and holds most of Carolina's defenseman scoring records since the franchise relocated to North Carolina.
Let's take a look at how he fared last season.
Justin Faulk 2016-17 Season By The Numbers
NHL Seasons: 6
Games Played: 75
Scoring: 17g - 20a - 37pts
Ice Time: 23:08 all situations, 19:42 ES, 2:43 PP, 0:42 PK
5-on-5 Stats: 52.12 CF%, 42.31 GF%, PDO 97.42
Contract Status: Completed 3rd year of 6-year contract (cap hit $4.833m)
Making the Grade
- Faulk is the third-most tenured player on the current Hurricanes roster (behind Cam Ward and Jeff Skinner) and celebrated a milestone 400th career NHL game on Apr. 8.
- He is best known for a booming howitzer of a shot, and his ability to drive offense from the blue line is his most valuable asset (besides that flow). Not only did his 17 goals delight fans of free queso, he eclipsed his 16-goal performance in 2015-16 and set a new single-season franchise record for goals by a Canes defenseman. He ranked third in goals scored behind Skinner and Sebastian Aho, and eighth overall with 37 points.
- Faulk spent more time on the man advantage than any other Canes player, and ranked fourth on the team in power play goals and points. Across the last three seasons, he ranks first on the team in both power play goals (23) and points (50), and across the league, only two defensemen have more power play goals over that time period (and only five have more total goals).
- Faulk spent the latter part of the 2015-16 season recovering from a difficult ankle injury, and it likely caused his otherwise inexplicable snub from the World Cup in September. He also missed three games in November with an upper body injury, and four games in December with a lower body injury, contributing to some inconsistencies in his game-to-game performance during the season.
- What about that woeful plus/minus? Yep, it was bad: minus -18 while teammates Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce faced top competition and shared a +23 rating. Faulk's natural aggressive tendencies sometimes catch him out of position, creating chances for opposing teams, and his offensive prowess gets him pulled into higher risk situations when the team is trying to mount a comeback (he's also in heavy rotation in 3-on-3 overtime, though only on the ice for one goal against in OT this season).
- But here's an interesting observation. Ron Hainsey was Faulk's most common defensive partner prior to the trade deadline. Before Hainsey was traded, Faulk's 5-on-5 goals-for percentage was 37.14% (Hainsey's was 35.53%). After the trade, when Faulk was more consistently paired with Slavin or Noah Hanifin, his goals for climbed to 52.94%. His PDO went from 95.9 to 100.1. He was a plus +1 over the last 26 games. And that's with no appreciable differences in any of his other stats. Granted, his injury status also improved over the last half of the season, but it was likely a combination of good health plus a change in deployment pairings that created a pretty radical turnaround.
- For interest, check out a few snapshots of Faulk's 2016-17 season courtesy of Micah Blake McCurdy at HockeyViz (especially the Replacements and With/Without graphs that demonstrate the improvement Faulk has on his teammates’ success).
A few activities for extra credit consideration:
- Faulk represented the Hurricanes at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game, logging a goal and four assists and earning a share of a cool million bucks for the winning Metro team.
- On Apr. 8 he was awarded the Josef Vasicek Award by the Carolina chapter of the PHWA for cooperation with the local media.
- Faulk, along with defensive partner Noah Hanifin, are sponsors of the True Defenders program, which provides game experiences to local military personnel.
- Oh, he also survived the Raleigh Fire.
- Exit Interview
A note from @JustinFaulk27 to #Canes fans.#Redvolution pic.twitter.com/38co5UwVnQ— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) April 11, 2017
How do you grade Justin Faulk’s 2016-17 season?
This poll is closed
A - Significantly Outperformed Expectations
B - Outperformed Expectations
C - Met Expectations
D - Underperformed Expectations
F - Significantly Underperformed Expectations