Shayne Gostisbehere helped Union College win its first NCAA hockey title in 2014. Now, he’s going for another first.
Gostisbehere is one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, the league announced Monday. Joining Gostisbehere are Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin, who was the top rookie scorer with 30 goals and 47 assists in 80 games, and Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, who had 16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games. McDavid missed 37 games with a broken clavicle suffered in a Nov. 3 game against the Flyers.
The winner will be announced at the NHL Awards show June 22 in Las Vegas.
The Flyers, who will celebrate their 50th anniversary next season, have never had a player with the Calder Trophy. Two Flyers came close to winning. Forward Bill Barber finished second to New York Rangers forward in 1973, and goalie Ron Hextall, now the team’s general manager, was runner-up to Los Angeles Kings forward Luc Robitaille in 1987.
“It would definitely be cool to be the first Flyer,” Gostisbehere said on a conference call. “Anything for the Flyers, and the organization and the fans. It would be humbling.”
Gostisbehere, the Flyers’ third-round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft, never envisioned himself as a Calder finalist while skating for the Dutchmen.
“In my days at Union, I was just happy to be an NHL draft pick,” said Gostisbehere, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 Frozen Four. “I was happy to maybe play an NHL game one day. To have this all happen right now, it’s very humbling for me and my family.”
Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett is thrilled for Gostisbehere.
“That’s a tremendous honor, to be recognized as one of the three best players in the National Hockey League for rookies,” Bennett said. “It’s just great that his body of work was rewarded this year for what he did.”
Union fans were abuzz on Twitter and Facebook shortly after it was announced that Gostisbehere was a Calder finalist. When he was told about that, Gostisbehere was appreciative of it.
“Union means a lot to me,” said Gostisbehere, who had 22 goals and 60 assists in 119 career games. “It’s where I started right out of prep school [South Kent School]. Being a no-hair-on-your-face 18-year-old, being a true freshman, it’s definitely an eye opener. You’re playing against older guys. Union did help me a lot through my playing career, polishing my defensive side of the game and little things you wouldn’t think about.”
“Coach Bennett, [assistant] coach [Jason] Tapp and [associate head] coach [Joe] Dumais, I owe them a lot. They did a lot for my career.”
The 23-year-old Gostisbehere was the Flyers’ fifth-leading scorer with 46 points on 17 goals and 29 assists in 64 games. The 17 goals are a team record for a rookie defenseman, surpassing Behn Wilson, who had 13 in 1978-79. Gostisbehere tied for the team lead in game-winning goals with five. Four of them came in overtime.
Gostisbehere was the Philadelphia chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association’s candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey. Gostisbehere, who suffered a season-ended torn ACL in his left knee in a Nov. 7, 2014 game for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, didn’t make the finalists list.
Gostisbehere started this season with the Phantoms. The Flyers called him up Nov. 14 after defenseman Mark Streit went down with a lower-body injury. At the time, the Flyers were 5-8-3 and had lost seven of their last eight. That night against the Carolina Hurricanes, Gostisbehere earned his first NHL point, an assist on Jake Voracek’s overtime game-winner. Three nights later, against the Los Angeles Kings, he scored his first NHL goal.
Gostisbehere then became a sensation in the Flyers’ next two home games, scoring overtime game-winners against the Hurricanes on Nov. 23 and the Nashville Predators on Nov. 27.
On Jan. 19, Gostisbehere scored a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That would start a record-setting 15-game point-scoring streak.
The Flyers would go 36-19-11 after Gostisbehere’s recall and make the Stanley Cup playoffs after missing them last year. The Flyers lost to the Washington Capitals in six games in the first round.
“I didn’t really think I was going to come in and make such an impact the way I did,” Gostisbehere said. “I came in wanting to contribute to my team, doing anything I could help my team along with the way. That’s what stuck with me the whole way is just put your individual stuff to the side and keep your teammates always with you and do whatever you can to help the team.”