Don’t Look Now, but There’s a Ghost Haunting the Calder Race

There was a time, back in October and November, when the Flyers were almost unbearable to watch. Bad defense, a non-existent offense, and a lack of energy plagued the team.

Then things appeared to take a turn down an even darker road. Mark Streit would miss significant time and at the time, that meant the Flyers were losing their second highest scoring player.

Yes, a 38 year-old defenseman was one of their leading scorers.

Enter Shayne Gostisbehere.

Everyone in Philadelphia knew his story. He won a National Championship in college, he suffered a major injury last season, and he was one of the Flyers top defensive prospects.

He had gotten a taste of the NHL before, but no one expected him to come in and change the whole dynamic of a team that was in dire straights.

Well he did.

Not all of that can be attributed to Gostisbehere, but a lot of it can be. The power play is better, the Flyers move the puck through the neutral zone more efficiently, and more importantly, they have a legitimate scoring threat on the blue line.

All of that leads to one conclusion, Shayne Gostisbehere deserves some serious consideration for the Calder Trophy.

Gostisbehere extended his point streak to 13 games against the Devils on Tuesday night. Aside from continuing to raise the bar on his record-setting streak, Gostisbehere now has the longest active point streak among all NHLers, as well as the second longest point streak this season. He’s halfway to the mark set by Patrick Kane earlier this season.

That is incredibly impressive when everything gets put into context. And when talking about the Calder race, that has to factor into the decision.

When you look at some the other front-runners, they have a pretty decent support team. Artemi Panarin has the leading scorer in the NHL beside him and Dylan Larkin spent most of the season playing alongside the very experienced and talented Henrik Zetterberg,

But to really appreciate why Gostisbehere deserves to be in the running, you have to dig deeper.

Take a look at the rookie scoring leaders and you will see Ghost sitting alone in fifth place, but once again, you need to put that into context. Gostisbehere has nearly 20 games on every single player around him in the Calder race, yet still the same point production. In fact, his 0.84 points per game are just a sliver behind Panarin’s 0.93 points per game.  Let’s not forget Ghost leads all rookies in power play points (18) as well.

What’s most impressive is that he is fourth among all defensemen in points per game, ahead of guys like P.K. Subban, Roman Josi,  John Carlson, and Duncan Keith. Those are big names that he is hanging around with in his rookie year.

Lost in all of the offensive conversation is the fact that his defensive skills have also been outstanding, specifically his ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone, shrug off forecheckers, and transition to the offensive zone, including his ability to read and react to neutral zone play.

It’s always hard to pinpoint the turnaround of a team on one single player, but before the arrival of Gostisbehere, the Flyers were the lowest scoring team in the league, and had the worst power play in the league, both of those have drastically improved since he got here.

The one thing Gostisbehere doesn’t have going for him, is that more often than not, the Calder is all about a points race rather than what player brings the most to their team.

The fact that he will only have played in 60 games by seasons end could help or hurt his case, but if he played a whole seasons scoring at the clip, he would be on pace for 69 points. That’s a plateau that only 11 defensemen have reached since the year 2000, and that is very hard to overlook, especially for a rookie.

If Shayne Gostisbehere keeps playing the way he is, there’s a very good chance the young Flyer could take home the Calder Trophy.