Justin Faulk relishing appearance in Frozen Four

By DJ Powers
Photo: Just a removed from playing for the U.S. National Development Team, Justin Faulk has been lighting it up for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Freshman Justin Faulk (CAR) has grown into one of the most promising young defensemen coming out of the collegiate ranks this season. His 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) is currently tied for first in the nation among all rookie defensemen. Hockey’s Future caught up with Faulk after practice on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN.

Hockey’s Future: Can you talk a little bit about how the team was able to bounce back and make it here to the Frozen Four after exiting the WCHA Final Five early?

Justin Faulk: I think it’s just been about how our team has been all year. Obviously we didn’t finish the Final Five like the way we wanted to, but the way we were able to bounce back I think shows the character of our team.

HF: Earlier in the year, you had been playing alongside Dylan Olsen (CHI) and after the World Juniors when Dylan signed with Chicago, you ended up playing almost the entire second half with Mike Montgomery. What has been like playing with both of them and what sort of adjustments, if any, have you had to make in playing with Mike compared to having played with Dylan?

JF: Dylan and I became defensive partners about the third or fourth game into the season until December. Playing with him was great and he’s a pretty good player. He knows the game pretty well too. When I came back (after the World Juniors), I moved over to play with Mike. I think he’s a very good player and he’s smart. We seem to read off of each other pretty well. He can jump into the rush when he wants to and I can stay back or vice versa. So I think there’s some good chemistry between us there. I guess the only transition that I’ve had to make is switching over from the right side to the left side.

HF: What was the experience like for you playing for Team USA at the World Juniors and what were some of the things that you learned from it that you’ve been able to bring back to Minnesota-Duluth?

JF: The experience was amazing. Anytime you get a chance to put on that jersey, it’s an honor. It’s was exciting to be able to play against some of the best players in the world. I think the biggest thing that I was able to bring back to Duluth was the experience of having played in big games in front of lots of people. I think it helped prepare me for something like this (Frozen Four).

HF: What was like with you playing for Team USA and Dylan (Olsen) playing for Team Canada?

JF: It was funny (Laughs). During the whole year, we were just kind of ribbing each other back and forth just talking about it. It was fun being able to play against him and just talking about it with him.

HF: What areas of your game do you feel that you’ve developed and improved in the most up to this point?

JF: I think coming in this year, I wanted to make sure that I was playing well defensively and shutting down the other team’s top line. If I did that, I figured that the offensive side would come eventually. I think I’ve always been pretty good on the offensive side of the game, jumping up in the rush and getting shots through to the net.

HF: What are some of the greatest lessons that Coach Sandelin and his staff have taught you that have made you a better player?

JF: I think just staying focused on the goal at hand and to not get too high or too low. They’ve also taught me and my teammates that we need to just keep fighting and sticking together as a team. If we do that, good things will come.

HF: Did you attend Carolina’s Prospects Camp last summer?

JF: Yes.

HF: What were some of the things that you learned from the camp that you’ve been able to bring back to Duluth with you?

JF: I learned just how hard they push you out there during drills. Everything is 100 percent all the time and you just have to push yourself on and off the ice. You have to be smart about everything. We had a lot of meetings and lessons about life, nutrition and stuff like that. I just took that whole experience and tried to incorporate that into my life here.

HF: Have they been keeping tabs on your progress throughout the year?

JF: I think so. I’ve only talked to them a couple of times during the year and I know that they came out to watch me one weekend too.

HF: Do you plan to attend their camp this coming summer?

JF: No, I don’t think so because I think they just have their players go to the camp once. When I was out there last year, there were only about 13 guys there. So it was a pretty small group. Carolina hasn’t said anything about this year’s camp either.

HF: I realize that this is probably the furthest thing from your mind right now, but is there any chance that you’ll be signing with them once this season is over?

JF: I’m just kind of focused on being here (at the Frozen Four) and finishing up the season right now, so I haven’t really thought about it. If anything comes up after the season is over, then I’ll have to sit and think about it.

HF: How do you describe yourself as a player and what will you be able to bring to Carolina in the future?

JF: I think I’m an all-around player. I can contribute offensively in areas such as on the power play. I like to play pretty tough down low in the defensive zone. I also like to play physical in the corners too. I try to not give my opponents any space in the defensive zone and try to shut them down. I also think that I’m good on the penalty kill and am willing to block shots too.