Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford knows when something good is about to happen.
At the time Rutherford opted not to release young defenseman Justin Faulk to the U.S. National Junior Team for inclusion in the 2012 World Junior Championship last December, he suggested that Faulk was already playing too integral a role for the Hurricanes despite his age.
As it turned out, Faulk would lead all Carolina skaters in average ice time per game (22:50), finishing first among NHL rookie defensemen in that category. He also topped all rookie defenders with five power-play goals, and was second with 22 points. He'd finish with eight goals and 14 assists in 66 games during his first NHL season.
Playing alongside Jay Harrison or Tim Gleason much of the season, Faulk became the eighth player in franchise history to be honored on the NHL All-Rookie Team and was one of 12 rookies selected to participate in the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition in Ottawa.
Was Rutherford surprised by the play of his first-year defenseman, a 2010 second-round draft pick?
"Yes," he said during his annual "State of the Canes" address to fans last month. "Playing defense in the NHL is very difficult and playing at 19 years old is even more difficult. But as long as I've been around the game, even as far back as when I played, I've never seen anyone handle the position like Justin Faulk has as a teenager."