RALEIGH, N.C.–Two days before the Carolina Hurricanes open the 2011-12 season, the team announced that prospects Justin Faulk and Ryan Murphy have made the final round of cuts and will be a part of the 23-man roster.
Faulk, a 2010 second round pick, has had a tremendous camp and preseason, rightfully earning a spot with the Hurricanes. A smooth skater with a defensive mindset, the former University of Minnesota-Duluth standout could be play a major role in fixing Carolina’s anemic blue line.
“We have a lot of faith in him,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said about Faulk. “We really like the way he’s played, and I think he has the opportunity to continue to get better. He’s got a lot of great instinct to play defense and a nice little offensive upside. We know he has a big shot, so we are comfortable to put him in the lineup.”
Murphy, the 12th overall pick in 2011 draft, has also impressed thus far. Throughout the preseason, he demonstrated the poise, intelligence, and confidence necessary to succeed at the NHL level.
“(Murphy) is a gifted offensive defenseman,” said GM Jim Rutherford. “He skates extremely well and is dynamic with the puck.”
While both Faulk and Murphy will begin the season in Raleigh, there is no guarantee that either sticks around. Since Faulk is 19-years-old, he can be sent down to the American Hockey League at any point. For this reason, the Hurricanes are not required to make an imminent decision on where he plays this year. If the team feels Faulk isn’t fitting in, he can be demoted to Charlotte and continue his development with the Checkers.
Murphy, however, does not have this option: the NHL rulebook states that the Hurricanes can only give him a nine game tryout with the club before reaching a verdict on his immediate future. Since Murphy is only 18-years-old, he remains too young for the minor leagues. After nine games, the team will either choose to keep him for the remainder of the season or send him back to his junior league team, the Kitchener Rangers.
Barring an unforeseen change in Faulk’s performance, I expect him spend the entire year with the Hurricanes. If preseason was any indication of what he is capable of, he should receive significant ice time and grow as a player (both physically and mentally) as the season wears on. That being said, I am far less confident about Murphy’s chances. Roster spots are extremely valuable in this league, especially for a cash-strapped team such as the Hurricanes. For Murphy to stay in the NHL, I believe he’s going to have to make a Jeff Skinner-like impression on the coaching staff. That doesn’t mean he has to rack up a lot of points, but rather give Carolina the confidence they need to keep him in the lineup through April and possibly into the playoffs. Whether or not he does so will be seen in the coming weeks.
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