With the NHL Awards being tonight and the Flyers’ very own Shayne Gostisbehere among those selected as a finalist for the NHL’s Calder Trophy, I figured I’d go over all the reasons why the young defenseman should be the one bringing home the hardware and not his fellow finalists Artemi Panarin or Connor McDavid.
Let’s start with Ghost; at just 5’11”, 170 lbs, Shayne Gostisbehere was not a player on anybody’s radar at the beginning of the season. In fact, outside the city of Philadelphia hardly anybody knew who he was. He was a third round draft pick picked 78th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft whose only time spent in the national spotlight was during the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four. It was here that his team at Union College took home the national championship in the very city he would later sign with. During that championship game, “Ghost” notched an impressive three points (1-2-3) and a remarkable +7 rating, giving the hometown crowd an exciting taste of the future.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Ghost, just coming off a season ending ACL tear, starts the season in the AHL. Posting 5 points in just 5 games, Ghost gets called up on November 14th after a groin injury leaves defenseman Mark Streit immobile. This comes as a surprise to some as general manager Ron Hextall has consistently preached patience in terms of the Flyers’ farm system, but they needed a guy to come up and he decided to give the kid a shot – and boy did it pay off. During his first game in a Flyers uniform, Ghost’s impact is felt immediately: recording an assist on a game-tying goal against the Carolina Hurricanes that would send the game into overtime. The Flyers would go on to win that game 3-2, awarding them a crucial two points in the standings. This victory would act as a catalyst for the rest of the season as the team would go on to win 10 of the next possible 16 points in just a two week span. This would include two other vital overtime victories against the Nashville Predators and Hurricanes, with goals scored by none other than yours truly: Shayne Gostisbehere.
With the help of this young prodigy, the Flyers edged themselves into the final playoff spot in the East with just a few games to spare, and though didn’t make it past the first round going up against the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals, got a lot further than anybody expected them to. Ghost finished that series with a goal and an assist and gained valuable playoff experience which is no doubt a benefactor for the future of the Flyers franchise.
But back to exactly why Ghost should win the Calder Trophy: he finished the season with 46 p0ints, 17 goals and 29 assists. This puts him 5th overall in rookie scoring, 1st overall for rookie defensemen, and 1st overall in goals for rookie defensemen. Over an 82 game pace (Ghost only played 64 due to being called up late) that’s good for 59 points which puts him within the top 5 in scoring for all defenseman in the entire league. Ghost also set the record for longest point streak by a rookie defenseman in the history of the NHL with 15 games, set the record for most amount goals scored by a rookie defenseman in Flyers franchise history, and won the Defenseman of the Year award for his club. Not to mention he made plenty of highlight reel plays such as this one right here, where he dives for the puck at the blue line, performs a slight shift to trip a Columbus defender off his feet, and sets up Jake Voracek up with a sweet pass in front of the net. Even though they didn’t score in that example, those types of plays are the kind that Ghost brought with him every night and had a lot to do with the Flyers making the playoffs. He also finished with a 50.1% Corsi percentage and a +8 rating for those who actually care about that stat, which is tied for highest among rookies. Without Shayne Gostisbehere the Flyers would not have been a playoff team.
Now on to Connor McDavid. Is the kid good? Absolutely. Do I think he’s gonna be one of the most if not the most dominating player in the league for years to come? Yes. But based on the fact that he only played 45 games and was sidelined for much of the season with an upper-body injury, I just can’t see him winning the Calder Trophy. McDavid did finish the season with an impressive 1.07 PPG, but there is no way of knowing if he would have kept that pace up during the games that he was injured. If there was a trophy for “Rookie of the Second Half of the Year” then give it to him right now, but the Calder is for “Rookie of the Year” and the NHL would be making a serious mistake if they gave it to a player that barely managed to crack the lineup for half of his team’s schedule.
And lastly, Artemi Panarin, but come on guys, do we really have to debate this? Sure the guy led the league in rookie scoring with 77 points but he played 6 seasons in the KHL and not to mention had Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as his linemates. Gostisbehere had Andrew MacDonald. I know he’s a rookie in the NHL’s eyes, but in my eyes how do you spell “N-O-T -A-R-O-O-K-I-E”?