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Shayne Gostisbehere focused on adjustments

Flyers defenseman wants to evolve into better two-way player

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- It wasn't quite the tale of two seasons for Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, but the numbers from his rookie season tell an interesting story.

Gostisbehere, 23, was recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14. That night against the Carolina Hurricanes, he had the primary assist on Wayne Simmonds' game-tying goal with 3:09 left in the third period, helping the Flyers to a 3-2 overtime victory.

Gostisbehere went on to finish fifth among rookies with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists), sixth among all defensemen with 17 goals and eight power-play goals, and tied for second in the NHL with four overtime goals. He was second in voting for the Calder Trophy as the League's rookie of the year, which was won by Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The bulk of that production came in Gostisbehere's first 40 games, when he had 12 goals and 34 points (0.85 points per game) and averaged 19:16 of ice time.

Once teams had enough video of Gostisbehere to study his tendencies, things became a bit more difficult for him.

"When I first got called up, lanes were easier to find," Gostisbehere said. "But it's all about how you adapt. It's how you take everything. Obviously teams are going to key on you if you're doing pretty good. For me, it was finding my game in a different way. It was definitely a little harder. But I think it worked out, and I think I saw some growth in my game as the year ended."

In his final 24 regular-season games, Gostisbehere had five goals and seven assists, playing an average of 21:27 per game. But he had two goals two assists on the power play after scoring six goals and 18 points with the man-advantage in his first 40 games.

During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he had one goal and one assist and averaged 20:32 of ice time in six games against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm4: Gostisbehere blasts puck home for PPG

"His first time through the League, he was an unknown player," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "As soon as you start going through the League, or playing teams the second time around, everybody prescouts things so well in the NHL, I would say that teams had a different approach. He wasn't an unknown commodity, so with teams there was a different strategy or different approach to him."

Gostisbehere said the biggest change in the way teams played against him was on the power play, where penalty killers did their best to take away time and space for him to get shots off from the point.

"Teams see a big shot, they're not going to let him just keep teeing off," Gostisbehere said. "It's something [Alex Ovechkin] deals with every game. Everyone's aware of [Ovechkin's] one-timer and he still manages to get 20 power-play goals a year. It's just adapting to it … not getting too frustrated."

Gostisbehere also was dealing with injuries to his hip and abdominal muscles, which needed offseason surgery, but said his medical issues had no effect on his dip in production in the final part of the season. He had surgery May 17 and while rehabilitating was able to work out a bit differently to prepare for the rigors of an 82-game season.

He got an early test with Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. He had four points in three games to tie Johnny Gaudreau for its scoring lead and said the experience was unlike anything he has had in hockey.

"It was just awesome," Gostisbehere said. "To see the atmosphere, the guys I played with, the coaching staff. … It was exciting and it was fun. If we can ever do it again, count me in."

Now, Gostisbehere's focus is set on continuing to make adjustments to his approach to the game.

"I definitely want to be looked at as more of a two-way guy," he said. "If I can get on the penalty kill, that would be cool. I want to be reliable in my own end. The offense will take care of itself. I don't want to be looked at as the guy they have to take out of the game if we're up by a goal with five minutes left in the game. … I want to get my two-way game down better, definitely the [defensive] side, and not worry about the offensive side as much. That will take care of itself."

Hakstol said he has no doubt whatever adjustments are needed, Gostisbehere will make them and be successful this season.

"He's a smart player," Hakstol said. "Instinctually he's very aware of time and space on the ice, and where people are at on the ice. That's part of him maturing as a player, making sure that he knows where his different options are and making good decisions. And some of those decisions are going to have to be made under pressure. … I'd expect him to continue building on that and working on those areas as he goes through his second full year."

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