The thought of being on the U.S. Olympic hockey team for the 2014 Winter Games is heady stuff for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk.
Hes just 21. He has only played a little more than 100 NHL games.
But then again, why not Faulk?
He has been a part of past USA Hockey teams. Now a fixture in the Canes lineup, he has competed for the United States in the past two IIHF World Championships and played well.
He certainly has his star rising, said Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, the GM for the U.S. Olympic team.
Faulk was one of 48 players invited to attend USA Hockeys orientation camp in August in Arlington, Va. Poile, in a Tuesday teleconference call, also said other names could be added to the Olympic mix for the 2014 Sochi Games once the NHL season begins in October.
But Faulk is on the list. Poile said he has an excellent chance of making the team, and Faulk said thats all hes asking for.
Im pretty happy to be invited to the orientation camp, Faulk said Wednesday. The Olympics are still quite a ways away, but Im really excited about the opportunity to compete for a spot on the team.
The U.S. took the silver medal in 2010 in the Vancouver Olympics, losing the memorable overtime game to Canada in the gold-medal showdown when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal. But Poile noted Team USA has not fared well in past Olympics on the larger ice surfaces in Europe, and that the U.S. team going to Sochi, Russia, needed players capable of handling the bigger rinks.
The past two World Championships were held in Sweden and Finland. Faulk had four goals and four assists in eight games in 2012, then six assists in 10 games this year as the U.S. took the bronze medal.
I think Im a good enough skater for the big sheets and dont mind it at all, Faulk said. It gives you more time to make plays and do things with the puck, and I think my defensive game is strong enough. I do not think it would be a big adjustment.
Only two defensemen going to the orientation camp Seth Jones (18) and Jacob Trouba (19) are younger than Faulk. Their invitations, Poile explained, were in part a reward for helping the U.S. take the gold medal in the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
But Faulk doesnt believe his age will work against him.
Im not going in saying, Im only 21, maybe Im too young, Faulk said. There will be no excuses. Im going to do all I can to make the team.
When I came in the (NHL), some may have said, Hes pretty young, hes just 19. But I just play my game. I have quite a bit of international experience and I hope that will come in handy.
Faulk was a member of USA Hockey teams in the 2010 World Under-18 Championship in Belarus and the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., when the U.S. also claimed a bronze. He has played in other international events in Slovakia and Switzerland.
Faulk also has been part of an NCAA championship team, starring as a freshman at Minnesota-Duluth in 2011.
Among the other defensemen invited to the U.S. Olympic camp are such NHL notables as Ryan Suter (Minnesota), John Carlson (Washington), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) and Jack Johnson (Columbus), the U.S. captain in 2010. The Olympic roster should be announced in December.
There will be some tough decisions, Poile said. But we like Justins game.
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