Phil Housley knows a thing or two about being an offensive defenseman.
Housley collected 338 goals and 894 assists in 1,495 games during a 21-year NHL career. His 1,232 points are the second most by a United States player.
So, Housley, who will coach the United States team in the World Junior Championships this year, had an eye on Union College sophomore defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere during the eight-day U.S. National Development Camp in Lake Placid.
Housley liked what he saw of Gostisbehere during the camp, which ended Saturday. Gostisbehere had two goals and two assists in four games.
The ECAC Hockey All-Rookie team member, who had five goals and 17 assists in 41 games for the Dutchmen last season, played a major in role in Team USA’s two victories. He assisted on John Gaudreau’s goal with 3:46 left in the second period, giving Team USA a 3-1 lead over Finland on Tuesday. It proved to be the game-winner in a 5-2 victory.
On Wednesday, Gostisbehere scored a pair of power-play goals and added an assist as Team USA rolled to a 10-2 win over Sweden, the defending World Junior champion.
“Most of our players have done a great job improving in the areas that we wanted to work on,”
Housley said. “Gostisbehere, definitely, every day has gotten better. His skating ability to get out of trouble, his knack to make the first pass in traffic and get involved in the rush have been excellent. His decision process when to join and when not to join has been really solid.
“His game really came to a new level against the Swedes, where he was able to jump up into the play and generate some offense in special-team situations on the power play.”
In the first couple of practices and intrasquad scrimmages, Housley was concerned about Gostisbehere’s defensive abilities. But after Gostisbehere made the cut after the Team USA roster was pared from 45 to 34 players late last Monday night, he showed Housley and the Team USA staff what made him one of Union’s best players in the second half of last season.
“But he really shored that part of his game up,” Housley said. “He has excellent stick, and keeping the guys to the outside. The one thing I keep going back to is he’s able to explode out of a situation in the defensive zone with the puck and skate it out of trouble, which is good on a big ice surface. He’s playing to his strengths. It’s good to see.”
Gostisbehere, who was selected in the third round of the NHL draft by the Philadelphia Flyers in June, enjoyed the eight days in Lake Placid. He didn’t play in the camp’s final game, a 3-2 overtime loss to Finland on Saturday, as Housley wanted to get a look at some of the other defensemen.
“It’s been a lot of fun being here with all the guys,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s been awesome.”
Gostisbehere said there were some nerves initially when he started practicing with Team USA last Saturday.
“But you lose the nerves when you start playing,” Gostisbehere said.
Team USA’s final roster won’t be announced until some time in December. Gostisbehere hopes he made a lasting impression with the coaching staff.
“You have to keep improving every day,” Gostisbehere said. “It really helps.”