Flyers’ rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere can add yet another accomplishment to his growing list this season: He will be a candidate for the National Hockey League’s 2016 Bill Masterton Trophy.
The trophy is awarded annually to the player who best embodies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game. Frequently, the award goes to players who have experienced a major career setback, such as a serious injury or illness, and recovered with poise.
Gostisbehere, who was nominated for this award by the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PWHA), was sidelined with a torn ACL in November of 2014 while playing for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In spite of his injury, Gostisbehere has put together one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in Flyers history.
“It's a big injury for anybody, especially for a young guy who didn't have much professional hockey experience,” said Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere, who won the Masterton in 2011 after blocking a shot with his face during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs and recovering from post-concussion syndrome. “To come back the way he did this year and help us out, it's amazing”
Gostisbehere was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and two years later, he won a national championship with the Union Dutchmen on Philadelphia ice. He signed his entry-level contract shortly after, on April 15, 2014, and was set to spend the 2014-15 season with Lehigh Valley. Instead, he had a brief two-game stint with the Flyers and played in only five games for the Phantoms.
During a November contest with the Manchester Monarchs, he was hit hard into the boards and fell awkwardly. An exam confirmed what he suspected: his left ACL was torn.
“I had a great support system around me,” Gostisbehere said of his recovery. “It could have gone a lot of different ways, and it affected me positively.”
After undergoing surgery on November 13, 2014, Gostisbehere missed the rest of the season. He returned to the ice as a Phantom in 2015 until he was called up to Philadelphia in November. During his first game against Carolina, he tallied an assist on the game-winning goal, and he scored his first NHL goal three days later against Los Angeles.
Gostisbehere set multiple records when he had a point in 15 straight games, culminating in a streak spanning over a month (January 19 to February 20). It was the longest point streak ever by a Flyers rookie and the longest by an NHL rookie defenseman.
Still, he remained humble.
“It was a special streak,” he said after the Flyers were shut out in a February 23 loss to Carolina, ending his streak. “I’m personally happy it’s over and we don’t have to talk about it anymore, but I just want to thank all my teammates for all the support.”
Gostisbehere’s streak is only part of why his impact on Philadelphia’s season has been tremendous. Despite playing in only 56 games, he leads all rookie defensemen with 41 points. Four of his goals have come in overtime, and all 16 have changed the lead, tied, or won the game for the Flyers.
Should he win the award, Gostisbehere would join Laperriere, Bobby Clarke (1972), and Tim Kerr (1989) as Flyers’ Masterton Trophy winners.