Fabulous Faber practices gratitude
by Lucas Aykroyd|10 AUG 2022
Defenceman Brock Faber (right), a 2021 World Junior gold medalist and 2022 Olympian, is thankful for the opportunity to captain the U.S. at these World Juniors.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
Great leaders make everyone around them better. It’s an approach that U.S. captain Brock Faber has taken to heart at the 2022 World Juniors. The smooth-skating 19-year-old defenceman is happy to put the spotlight on his teammates – despite an impressive resume that includes winning a gold medal at the 2021 World Juniors in Edmonton and suiting up at February’s Olympics in Beijing.

After the Americans kicked off their WJC title defence with a 5-1 win over Germany, outshooting their opponents 50-11, Faber took pride in an effort that included five different goal-scorers and ten different point-getters.

“Tonight it was up and down the line-up,” said Faber, a native of Maple Grove, Minnesota who had five assists in seven games at the 2021 tournament. “Guys were going and guys were playing their games. You know, moving forward, we’ve just gotta keep everyone involved and keep everyone going. And then we’ve got something special for sure.”
The 184-cm / 6'0'', 88-kg / 194-lbs Faber, who will captain the University of Minnesota this fall as a junior, is grateful for the opportunity to partner here with Luke Hughes. The younger brother of NHL stars Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks and Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils was named the U.S.’s best player versus Germany. Hughes scored a goal and an assist and played a team-high 22:15.

“Obviously, it's fun because if I go D to D to him, he kind of does the rest,” Faber said of Hughes, a University of Michigan product chosen fourth overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2021. “He's easy to play with. An unbelievable skater, obviously, and a great teammate. I’m very thankful to be with him.”

Faber is one of four returnees from the golden 2021 World Junior team, joining fellow blueliner Tyler Kleven and forwards Brett Berard and Landon Slaggert. Head coach Nate Leaman is also back. For Faber, the continuity with the 49-year-old bench boss from Providence College is, well, providential.

“He's an unbelievable coach and unbelievable person,” Faber said. “He was a huge reason why we won it [in 2021]. He's a special coach, and obviously he's here for a reason. So it's awesome playing for him. All the guys buy in. He’s one of a kind for sure, and he's a great leader.”

Now it’s time for everyone in a Stars and Stripes uniform to come together. Playing this tournament at an unusual time of year and gearing up to confront bona fide gold medal contenders such as Canada, Finland, and Sweden, the team is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead.

“We had a camp in Michigan, and that was really good for us to get everyone together, hanging out in the hotel, having meals, things like that,” Faber said. “Just trying to get as close as we can as quick as we can. Obviously, chemistry is a big part of winning this thing. So you’re trying to get to know everyone as quick as possible. We're just thankful to be out there again, thankful that this got rescheduled, and thankful for another chance.”
It’ll be intriguing to see if Faber also gets another chance to play in the Olympics down the road. He’ll be 23 when Milano Cortina 2026 gets underway and 27 in February 2030. The Americans always have a deep blue line and there are no guarantees.

In the Beijing bubble, more than half the U.S. roster consisted of college players, with the NHL not participating. The U.S. finished fifth. Faber logged four games and one assist, which came in the opening 8-0 romp over host China. What did it all mean to him?

“It was a pretty special experience, not something that I take for granted at all. I never thought I'd be there at 19 years old. It was always a dream. I'm just thankful to have that experience. Playing with older guys really helped my game develop. It helped all the college guys develop their game, because now they've played at that next level. Playing with and against those [veteran] guys, it was definitely a big step to take. But it’s something I can try and carry on with that confidence throughout this tournament.”

And then, there’s his NHL aspirations.

For some players, it could be a tough feeling to get traded before even making their NHL debut. But for Faber, it’s likely a blessing.

Growing up in Minnesota, he cheered ardently for the Wild, but he was drafted in the second round (45th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in 2020. Then, on 29 June, the Kings acquired Swiss sniper Kevin Fiala from the Wild in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick – and Faber. It was a wonderful homecoming surprise.

So who were his favourite Wild players as a kid? He’s talked about the stalwart style of veteran defenceman Jonas Brodin in the past, but there’s got to be more.
“That's tough,” Faber said with a laugh. “I’m sure you guys have seen the picture of me behind the glass and Kirill Kaprizov scoring! Ah, there’s too many. I had tons of Wild jerseys growing up, tons of shirts, going to the games all the time. So it’s hard to name one. But I'm just thankful to be part of that organization. You know, the Kings were obviously so great to me. Getting to know all of them and their staff and how much time they put into developing my game and getting to know me, I'm really thankful for that. And now I’m thankful to be part of my hometown team.”

The U.S. National Team Development Program is like a family, and Faber stays in touch with guys who have gotten closer to making the NHL after winning World Junior gold alongside him last year. Two in particular stand out.

“Playing with Jake Sanderson and Matty Beniers, it was obvious that those two are special hockey players and special people too,” Faber said. ”They were always leaders on teams with the NTDP and international tournaments. I’m trying to feed off the things that they've done in my life and copy their work ethic and things like that. I’m super thankful I've played with both those two, and I'd say I keep in touch with them both a good amount.”

If all goes according to plan, he’ll be regaling his old teammates with tales of the journey to another gold medal on 20 August at Rogers Place. And he’ll be grateful for what he’s experienced here – again – in the Alberta capital.