A rocketing slap-shot goal blasted Justin Faulk into the Carolina Hurricanes' record books on Saturday.
Faulk's 15th goal and 47th point of the season, which gave Carolina a 3-1 lead over New Jersey, surpassed Joni Pitkanen's 46-point campaign of 2009-10 as the highest single-season point total by a 'Canes defenseman.
Just two games prior, Faulk had become just the fifth defenseman in franchise history (and first in 15 years) to register nine shots on goal in a single game, per Hockey-Reference.com.
Faulk is also only the 61st defenseman in NHL history of age 22 or younger (as of Feb. 1 of the season) to register 47 points in a single season. Although the odds are currently against it, Faulk also has a chance to become only the ninth defenseman in history 22 or younger to play 2,000 minutes in a season.
The Hurricanes' second-round selection in the 2010 draft has quickly emerged as the future face of the franchise and one of the bigger rising stars in the league today.
But less than five years ago, Faulk was barely noteworthy as a projected mid-round pick. Wrote Chris Dilks of SB Nation on June 1, 2010:
The big question surrounding Faulk in the draft is how will teams deal with his size. Faulk stands out as one of the most talented offensive players in the draft. Possessing that one elite level skill might be enough for teams to take a look at Faulk as high as the early second round of the draft. Otherwise, he seems likely to fall to the third or fourth round in the draft.
The 'Canes, however, took the supposed risk on Faulk at pick No. 37.
In the time since, he's played more NHL minutes than all but three other 2010 selections—teammate Jeff Skinner is one of the three—and decisively outperformed every defenseman other than No. 12 pick Cam Fowler. None of the five players selected directly before Faulk have scored their first career goal; Faulk, meanwhile, has 33.
Faulk's appearance at the All-Star Game earlier this season perhaps marked the start of his emergence as a well-known star, but the 'Canes have known what they've had in him for years.
Head coach Bill Peters has played Faulk more than 21 minutes in 66 of his last 68 appearances—and since Faulk has yet to miss a single game this season, that's also been 66 of Carolina's 68 games.
General manager Ron Francis felt comfortable enough with Faulk as a his long-term No. 1 blueliner to deal Andrej Sekera for a nice return at the deadline.
His comfort is certainly justified. Not only do advanced stats paint a very pretty picture of Faulk's excellence, but so does the pure eye test: It's difficult to remember the last time that Faulk has not clearly been the best 'Canes defenseman on the ice in any given game.
And indeed, Francis seems to be building his vision of the future 'Canes as a defensive team focused around Faulk; other young D-men Haydn Fleury, Ryan Murphy, Roland McKeown and Trevor Carrick give the franchise a bright future in the back end.
Should Faulk play in each of the 'Canes final seven matches, he'll record the 45th complete season in franchise history.
Any points he scores during that time, however, will only break his own record for defenseman scoring—which will only make it more difficult for him to perhaps break it again in 2015-16.
Select records and statistics per Hockey-Reference.com.