Calder Trophy runner-up, a possible extension on the way, Wild's Brock Faber looks forward to big sophomore year

LAS VEGAS — With a stylish new suit that included pictures inside the lining of his loved ones and beloved pooches, Snoop (Dogg, get it?) and Goose, Brock Faber arrived in Sin City for the NHL Awards on Thursday looking in midseason form.

The Wild defenseman who played the final two months and 26 games of his tremendous 82-game rookie season with two broken ribs already had a cut over his swollen lip courtesy of a puck to the face off the blade of captain Jared Spurgeon two days earlier.

“Tipped a few times and hit me in the face,” Faber said, smiling. “Unfortunate timing. It might have been a pass that got deflected. I can’t even remember. But it just came up and hit me.”

Faber was still all smiles as he sat in the audience and learned what he probably expected, and that was he finished second in the Calder Trophy race to Chicago teenage star Connor Bedard. Bedard finished with 152 first-place votes to Faber’s 42. Bedard and Faber, who had 146 second-place votes, were the clear 1-2 over New Jersey’s Luke Hughes.

The Wild’s Marco Rossi finished sixth.

“It’s really cool obviously,” said Faber, who attended the Awards Show with his parents, Karri and Jay, his girlfriend, Morgan, and his agents, Brian and Scott Bartlett. “Having a trip to Vegas is great regardless but being able to be here and be around all these players and all their families. It’s really cool and me and my family are all happy to be here.”

Faber, 21, scored eight goals, 39 assists and 47 points in 82 games last season, blocking 150 shots and averaging 24 minutes, 58 seconds per game. Going up against the opponent’s best players, Faber led all NHL rookies in average ice time and blocking shots while ranking tied for first in assists and tied for second (and tied for first amongst defensemen) in points. He established new Wild season rookie records for assists, blocked shots and time on ice per game and ranked second only to Kirill Kaprizov’s 51 points in 2020-21 for the team’s single-season rookie point record.

As director of amateur scouting Judd Brackett said last week, Faber exceeded expectations.

“He was thrust into a big role. You know, our captain went down,” Brackett said. “We knew that Brock had the skating, the hockey sense, and certainly the character experience coming in having played with the U.S. National Team, played at the Olympics and with the Gophers.

“So, we knew he was a really experienced player coming in, but he took on roles we probably didn’t envision so quickly. You can’t take away the minutes he played against the players he did; it was incredible. We’re very fortunate. And obviously, he’ll continue to grow. Offensively, maybe he didn’t have all these opportunities at different levels, and he took advantage of them. It speaks to his hockey sense, it speaks to his acumen, and honestly the nerves of steel that he has. He can step into any situation and play.”

Asked how he put his rookie season in perspective, Faber naturally pivoted to the team.

“There’s good and bad parts of it obviously,” he said. “Not making the playoffs was a huge down part of the year. But individually I thought there were some unfortunate injuries there (with teammates) and I was maybe put in spots that I didn’t expect to be put in a little bit. The coaches had all the confidence in me just to allow me to play my game and be myself. So, it worked out just like that.”

The question now is how he will build on last season’s success next season. For instance, the penalty kill is one area he knows he has to get better in. He was on the ice for 35 power-play goals against, tied for the fifth-most in the NHL.

“I think for me points and goals and assists are one thing but continuing to try to make more of an impact on the game is how I look at it,” said Faber. “Not always numbers but what I can do to impact the game maybe off the scoresheet. Sophomore slump, you hear it all the time but I think that comes a lot with mindset after that first season if you have a great first season and continuing to humble yourself and stay confident in yourself obviously but humbly.

“It starts in the offseason, offseason training, and that’s kind of ramping back up. That’s something I’m looking forward to is again trying to take another step next year and another step after that. That’s my goal. That’s the position I’m in and again grateful to be in that position.”

Wild president of hockey operations and general manager Bill Guerin, who attended the NHL Awards Show to support Faber, said it’s about consistency now for Faber. At some point soon, Guerin’s expected to begin negotiations toward a possible extension for Faber with the Bartlett Bros.

While there’s no official meeting set up, Guerin said there’s a chance he’ll meet up with Brian and Scott Bartlett while in Las Vegas on Friday or Saturday for the NHL Draft.

But regardless, he doesn’t want Faber worrying about the higher expectations and a possible sophomore dip.

“I’m not going to put that pressure on him, (coach John Hynes) is not going to put that pressure on him,” Guerin told The Athletic. “The biggest thing is skate and defend like you do. The power play stuff came because Spurge was out, and he got in there kinda by default and he performed well. That’s good. That’s the idea. I don’t know if he’s going to be on the first PP again (with Spurgeon back healthy and Declan Chisholm in the mix). We don’t need to worry about that or put that pressure on him.

“Just come and f—ing play and work hard and don’t worry about points and this and that. Just play.”


Wild’s Brock Faber could get richest extension in team history this offseason: Analysis

Guerin knows it’s going to take a pretty penny to extend Faber the way second contracts for elite defensemen are trending in the NHL. His extension on a max-eight-year deal could have an AAV well above $8 million annually. Guerin never could have envisioned that would come this soon after acquiring him from Los Angeles in the Kevin Fiala trade.

“This is what you want, though,” Guerin said. “These are the good problems. This is the idea.”

But he doesn’t expect Faber to get fat, happy and complacent if he gets the big payday so quickly.

“He’s a pro,” Faber said.

Still, there’s no rush to get him extended and Brian Bartlett, earlier this week, said the same thing from Faber’s end.

Faber isn’t going to worry about it.

“I just try and stay focused on myself and what I can do just to be a better me next year,” Faber said. “If something like that happens this summer, that’s great and if it doesn’t that’s just fine, too. It’s something I try not to think about a whole lot. I just try to be myself and regardless of that continue to push to be better.

“I’m a Minnesota kid, so, yes, I love it here but at the same time, I think we’re fair on both sides and that’s the goal. I love it here and I’d do anything to bring a Stanley Cup here. That’s the main goal for me. The contract’s always going to work itself out here. If you’re meant to be here, you’re going to stay and if you’re meant to leave, you’re going to leave. Again, I really do just try to focus on what I can do to help this team win, make the playoffs, win a Stanley Cup, that’s really all I try and focus on honestly.”



Making Brock Faber’s case for Calder: NHL players and coaches on why he could edge Connor Bedard

Faber will head back to Minnesota on Saturday morning where he’ll spend the rest of the offseason working out, skating and golfing.

“Not a bad life in the offseason,” he said.

Faber, especially in his home state, is humbled by the accolades he receives and the spotlight he gets.

“It’s something I’m grateful for obviously,” Faber said. “It’s a really cool thing me being from Minnesota you get to experience this and all the love and appreciation from fans. I wake up every day excited to go to the rink.”

Thoughts on Faber

Jared Spurgeon, Wild captain

“I think from just training with him this summer, you knew he has something special, just watching him mature throughout the year — he’s already a mature man. He plays the game at such a high level. His skating is awesome. It’s one of his main talents that lets him play the way he does. But just the confidence he had to go from a guy who had never quarterbacked a power play and then to see how calmly he went into that position, and then that offensive side that I think we could all see, whether it was during summer skates or his flashes come out — it was awesome to see from a teammate’s perspective. And obviously, he’s such a great teammate to play those minutes. It was awesome.”

Cale Makar, Calder and Norris Trophy winner

“He’s a really fun player to watch. He’s going to be a stud for years to come. He’s an incredible player. You get the best of both worlds with him. He’s really dialed in defensively and his offensive game takes over too. He’s a diamond in the rough for them for sure.”

Paul Martin, former NHLer and Gophers grad assistant 

“I think certain players just have it. He has all the tools for the most part of playing at an elite level for an extended period of time. It’s crazy to think he didn’t play on the power play for the Gophers. His feet are quick and his brain is quick. When things move faster, he gets better. Sometimes, at a college level on a bigger sheet, you have a lot more time to think about what you’re trying to do, what’s the right play? When there’s a guy who can see and move at a high level, they can look like they’re on the right wave. I always thought he’d excel more at the next level than in college, which I think we saw last year — his ability to handle really fast, high speed situations with the best in the league and just rise to that level because he’s got that inside of him already. There wasn’t a lot to teach players like that. It’s more, ‘What do you see here?’ You ask them questions, ‘What are they thinking there?’ A lot of times they know the answers. It’s been fun to watch him have the success he’s had, especially in his home state and I’m sure that’ll continue.”

Eddie Olczyk, Former NHLer, coach and analyst

“I just think his presence on the ice. It looks like he understands every situation he’s in. He never looks like he’s ever panicking. Even when the situation is like, ‘Oh (s—), this kid is in trouble,’ he doesn’t skip a beat. He reminds me (in) a lot of ways of Charlie McAvoy. He’s got a little Duncan Keith in him too. Just the patience, not afraid to get involved. And, it doesn’t seem like to me — in any situation — his heart rate gets very high. It’s the ultimate compliment. He’s so poised for a kid that’s barely scratched the surface.”

Greg Cronin, Ducks coach

“He’s terrific. I didn’t know much about him, I heard his name. His stats stick out, there’s a lot of press on him so his name pops up. I watched him closely in Prescott. But he’s a really good hockey player. Not only a great player, but his IQ is what separates him. He’s got the skating component. He’s smart. He gets up in the play at the right times, breaks out pucks really well. He does a lot of false moves to bait a forechecker into a spin off, some high level things. I saw Makar do that quite a bit and (Devon) Toews and (Bowen) Byram. He does it really well.”

(Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn / NHLI via Getty Images)

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