A breakthrough freshman season. Getting drafted by an NHL team. Having an even better start to the sophomore campaign. Just days away from being asked to represent the United States at the World Junior Championships.
The last 12 months of Shayne Gostisbehere’s life has been a whirlwind, for sure, but one where each time he turns around he’s gaining more and more positive notoriety.
Not that he’s letting it get to his head at all.
“Right now I see myself in the same spot I was in a year ago,” said Gostisbehere, 19, a sophomore defenseman for Union College (N.Y.). “I’m just doing what I have to do in college. I’m not looking to make any jumps because of everything that’s happened. I just want to keep going to college.”
It’s not that anyone is pushing him to do something else – specifically the Philadelphia Flyers, who drafted him in the third round (78th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
It’s just that he has his priorities and he’s keeping them in line.
He’s getting good grades. He’s playing good hockey. He’s already been named to the preliminary roster for the U.S. World Junior Hockey Championship team and all indications are he’ll probably be on the final roster for that tournament that takes place during the Christmas season.
Did we mention he’s playing good hockey?
Through his first 13 games this season, Gostisbehere, a native of Margate, Florida, had 13 points - not bad for a defenseman to average a point per game. But he has a flair for the dramatic. He has game-winning goals. He had game-tying goals. He single-handedly has brought his team back from the brink of defeat to either tie or win a game.
Oh, and he’s been playing responsible defense too.
“I was surprised how mature he is game-wise,” said Flyers Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere. “Everyone is excited about his numbers, but I’m happiest with his awareness in his own zone.
“One of the best things about him is he always wants to be part of the answer to whatever the team needs to succeed. That’s a great quality that not too many young guys have in their game, but he does.”
Hockey’s Future had him rated as the fourth-best NCAA prospect in the draft last summer, offering this scouting report:
Gostisbehere is a smart, puck-moving defenseman who sees the ice remarkably well. But what sets him apart from many collegiate rookie defensemen is his ability to balance great offensive skills with a solid defensive game. Gostisbehere is smart in knowing when to jump into plays and his decision-making is very good. He moves exceedingly well with the puck and his passing skills are excellent. Gostisbehere also possesses a great stick and does a good job of taking away lanes. While Gostisbehere's one-on-one coverage is good, he'll need to continue to improve his gap control. Gostisbehere is a superb skater with good speed and agility. He possesses a very good shot and can get pucks to the net. Gostisbehere's greatest attributes, such as his skating will be further enhanced with continued physical development.
“It’s definitely been a good season so far,” Gostisbehere said. “My team is off to a great start and hopefully we can build off it. As for me personally, I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully it will keep going as well as it has so far.”
If Gostisbehere can avoid injury – he’s already dealt with an ankle sprain and a nasty cut on his nose – there’s no reason that he should drop off. After all, it was last season that he got on the Flyers’ radar when he actually got better during the NCAA playoffs and was a key ingredient to Union’s unexpected run to the Frozen Four.
Couple that with what expects to be a thrilling World Junior tournament where the Americans are again, expected to be among the favorites with Canada and Russia, and Gostisbehere is on a very solid path.
“It’s a great honor to be added to that roster and I’m looking forward to training camp for the tournament,” he said. “I felt like I gave it my all during the summer and wanted to give myself the best chance of being part of that team.”
Playing two times a week now is easy-peasy compared to the grueling schedule of the World Junior Tournament, but Laperriere thinks Gostisbehere will hold up well.
“He has a flair offensively but he’s not a big guy,” Laperriere said. “ But that doesn’t matter if he can skate and compete and he’s getting better at that every year. Hopefully he’ll learn from all those tournaments. When you are 18-19-years-old, it’s a real test, but he’s playing against 21-22 year olds in college so he should be fine. I’m actually looking forward to seeing him play because of that.”
And Flyers fans should be excited, because it’s been quite a long time since a homegrown defenseman has blossomed into a quality player for the Flyers, however the organization feels cautiously optimistic that they may have found a gem in the third round.
“I think fans can be excited, yeah,” Laperriere said. “He’s not the physical big guy, but… well… I’m not going to say he’s going to be a Kimmo Timonen, but he has the offensive mindset and the intelligence like Kimmo does. It’s encouraging to see that he has those details in his game already. We hope he improves like we want him to because we think he could develop into a really good player at the next level.”
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