Gostisbehere Gearing Up for Another Big Year

The Blueliner is Coming Off a Career-High 65 Points Last Season

Whether it’s a practice, a game or an off-ice workout, Shayne Gostisbehere is determined to give it everything he’s got. That’s why he has rocketed to the top of the conversation when it comes to the top young defensemen in the NHL.

 

Look no further than last season when the Philadelphia Flyers' blueliner enjoyed a career-year with 13 goals and 52 assists, which was good for 4th in the league among defensemen.

 

It was another step forward for the smooth-skating defenseman who burst onto the scene in 2015 with a sensational rookie year.

 

Gostisbehere had 17 goals and 29 assists in 64 games during his rookie campaign, and finished second in the voting for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Highlighting his inaugural campaign was a 15-game point streak in 2016, the longest stretch by an NHL defenseman since Chris Chelios in 1995. His late game heroics, with the openness of 3-on-3 overtime at his disposal, led to four overtime winners, a rookie record.

 

That was followed up by a bumpy sophomore season in which he saw his plus/minus mark hit a -21 and several healthy scratches designed to get his game back on the right track.

 

“Not having the best year before really puts a fire into you to have a good season. I definitely worked a little extra harder that summer,” said Gostisbehere, who was selected by the Flyers in 3rd round of the 2012 NHL Draft said. 

 

“It’s definitely an eye-opener, it’s not that easy of a league obviously.”

 

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Gostisbehere is looking to pick up right where he left off from his career-year, a 65-point output that ranked 4th among defenseman.Gostisbehere is looking to pick up right where he left off from his career-year, a 65-point output that ranked 4th among defenseman.

It’s not easy to become a complete player in this league, but as the first born and raised South Floridian to make the NHL, Gostisbehere has made a habit of overcoming steep odds. After moving away from home to attend prep school in Connecticut, he earned a spot with the Flying Dutchmen of Union College. 

 

The Schenectady, N.Y., based school was only a blimp on the radar for most NHL scouts prior to his arrival on campus. During his freshman year the Dutchmen reached the Frozen Four, and in his junior season they won the whole thing, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, no less.

 

It was a glimpse of what was to come for Flyers’ fans as Gostisbehere’s performance in the 7-4 championship win was telling. The blueliner had a goal and two assists in the stunning victory over Minnesota.

 

However, the Broad Street faithful would have to wait. A torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2014 cut short his NHL debut down to just two games. 

 

After a full year of recovery, he returned as explosive as ever for his rookie season. That season ended with hip surgery.

 

Last year, not only did he have a sensational career-year offensively, but he was able to bring his defensive game to a whole new level. 

 

Powered by an increased mental toughness and maturity, the blueliner is a staple of the Flyers first defensive pair alongside Ivan Provorov, another blossoming young defenseman who’s only 21-years-old.

 

Gostisbehere’s six-year, $27 million contract extension kicks in this season, holding a $4.5 million average annual value. With it, Gostisbehere is taking on a bigger leadership role in the locker room.

 

“The coaches want me to take more of a leadership role around all these young guys,” he said. “I’m kind of the buffer zone right now, from the older guys on the team to the younger guys. I don’t have to be too vocal out there, we have some great leaders who do that. For me it’s just going out there, having fun, being a good pro and leading by example.”

 

At the forefront of that improvement is Gostisbehere’s play when the puck isn’t on his stick. Because when the puck is, any faults seem minimal as the points tend to come in bunches.

 

When looking at defenseman since his rookie year in 2015-16, Gostisbehere’s points per game sits at 0.69. On the list that Erik Karlsson heads, the Flyers defenseman is ninth, nestled in with the likes of the Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi (0.71), Washington Capitals’ John Carlson (0.70), and Nashville’s P.K. Subban (0.70).

 

While fans may be hesitant to hoist him in that group, his play is making the assessment even more clear. The Flyers lack of deep playoff success dims the potential spotlight on Gostisbehere that Josi and Subban, and Carlson, a Natick, Mass., native, have enjoyed in the postseason with the Predators and Capitals, respectively.

 

The underlying numbers suggest the nickname-dubbed Ghost-bear is clawing into that tier, producing 2.03 points per 60 minutes played. His P/60 are 4thamong defenseman since 2015, stationed behind Brent Burns (2.08), Will Butcher (2.05) and Erik Karlsson (2.03).

 

How about that company?

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A member of the 2013 U.S. World Junior team, Gostisbehere is just one of many American defenseman exhibiting brilliance from the blue line offensively at the NHL level.A member of the 2013 U.S. World Junior team, Gostisbehere is just one of many American defenseman exhibiting brilliance from the blue line offensively at the NHL level.

Gostisbehere early success didn’t go unnoticed as he was added to the dynamic Team North America in the 2016 World Cup, the roster bursting with the best young Canadian and Americans players that took the hockey world by storm.

 

The defensive corps of Team NA boasted fellow Americans Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba, as well as Aaron Ekblad and Colton Parayko. Gostisbehere led all blueliners on Team NA with four points.

 

The United States has seen a plethora of game-breaking, offensively-gifted defenseman take the game by storm in recent years. The game is shifting to more speed and because of that, a defenseman that can control the game on his stick, whether quickly distributing the puck to forwards and joining the rush, or leading it, is as important as ever. 

 

The Red, White, and Blue continues to churn out blueliners, Gostisbehere fits that mold perfectly.

 

“I honestly think it’s just how the game is going now,” he said. “You need that puck-moving defensemen back there. You need that guy that’s going to not only lead the rush, but get up in the rush as well, that second wave to get up there. You’ll see it more and more around the league.”

 

 

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After taking home the Barry Ashbee Trophy, awarded to the Flyers' most outstanding defenseman, Gostisbehere has his sights set on a different trophy this season.After taking home the Barry Ashbee Trophy, awarded to the Flyers' most outstanding defenseman, Gostisbehere has his sights set on a different trophy this season.

Nowhere has Gostisbehere proven his worth more than on the Flyers’ power play. Teamed up with the dynamic Provorov, who had 17 goals last year, Gostisbehere was tops among defensemen with 33 power play points.

 

With Gostisbehere’s booming shot from the point, opponents have to respect his willingness to shoot, but also the option to pass it off and make a play to a teammate.

 

“Kind of everything runs through him at the top,” said veteran forward James van Riemsdyk, whose net-front presence should make the Flyers even more potent with the man advanatage. “He makes smart plays, gets his shots through. He’s got really good feet and edges so he makes a lot of deceptive plays up top that makes all the penalty killers have to hold up and wait a split second to make sure what’s he’s doing.”

 

Even with all the individual accolades, Gostisbehere has his sights set on contributing to the team’s success, especially when the playoffs roll around. 

 

“I think for us, losing in the first round a couple years now, it’s great to make the playoffs obviously,” Gostisbehere said. “But I think right now especially we’re a team that could make that next step as a team. We know it’s in this locker room, it’s just up to us and go out there and do something about it.”

 

When combining his skill and motivation, the man they call “Ghost” should live up to his nickname by throwing a fright into opposing goalies.

 

“For this year too, you have to follow up a career-year with maybe an even better year or just as good,” Gostisbehere said.

 

“I’m always trying to get better every time.”

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