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Gostisbehere has healthy outlook for Flyers

Defenseman expects better performance after surgery caused down season

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said as good as he feels now, it's hard to remember what it felt like at this time a year ago.

Gostisbehere helped Team Hollydell to a 10-1 win against Team Ebo Strong 2 in its opening game at the Checking For Charity tournament at Flyers Skate Zone on Friday.

Playing on a team that included Flyers teammate Mike Vecchione, Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, New York Rangers defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, and Vancouver Canucks goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko, Gostisbehere moved up and down the ice easily against an Ego Strong 2 team of college and minor league players born in the Philadelphia region.

"Now I feel really explosive, I feel really strong," Gostisbehere said. "It's going to be an exciting season."

That excitement was missing for Gostisbehere most of last season. He had surgery to repair injuries to his hip and abdominal muscles in May 2016 and never got into a consistent groove. He had 39 points (seven goals, 32 assists) in 76 games and was a healthy scratch five times.

It was a drop from 2015-16, when he led NHL rookie defensemen with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists) in 64 games and finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy. He had a 15-game point streak, the longest by an NHL defenseman since Chris Chelios had a 15-game streak in 1995, and became the first NHL rookie to score four overtime goals in a season.

Gostisbehere said there were lingering issues from his surgery but they were more mental than physical. 

"It's your thought process," he said. "You're making cuts, you're doing things [and] you think about it. 'I could have gone a little faster there. Is that from the surgery?' It's more mental than anything."

Video: Shayne Gostisbehere on his offseason and 2017-18

Gostisbehere rarely was a healthy scratch at any point in his hockey career but said he tried to make the most of the situation when it happened last season.

"You've got to be a good team player about it," he said. "Can't make it about yourself. Yeah, you don't want to be a healthy scratch, but you take the positives from it. I think I did that. … I got better off the ice when my team was on the ice."

Gostisbehere said there's nothing limiting him entering this season. 

"I'm coming in with a great summer under my belt and I'm going to keep that going into the season," he said.

He signed a contract June 9 reported to be for six years and $27 million ($4.5 million average annual value) to avoid becoming a restricted free agent. Even though he's 24 years old and has played one full NHL season, he's a veteran on a team that could have five rookies on the opening-night roster, including at least two defensemen.

"If they want to bounce ideas off me, I'll lead the way for them," he said. "Show them how to be good pros."

Healthy after a trying season, Gostisbehere said he's looking forward to training camp and helping the Flyers return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they did not qualify last season.

"I think going into this season we're really focused," he said. "We're going to have a young, fun, exciting team to watch. And it's going to be a great season."

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