Flyers prospect Gostisbehere gets taste of Philly

Flyers prospect Gostisbehere gets taste of Philly

Gostisbehere and Gaudreau trade compliments

April 10, 2014, 10:00 am
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The Flyers selected Shayne Gostisbehere in the third round of the 2012 draft. (USA Today Images)

It's time to see what the kid is made of.

All eyes will be on Union College defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere when the Frozen Four kicks off Thursday evening at the Wells Fargo Center (see story).

Gostisbehere, who was selected by the Flyers in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft, is one of the hottest talking points of the tournament. The 20-year-old Florida native is getting his first real exposure to the City of Brotherly Love while also trying to lead his school to its first national title.

That's a lot of pressure for a college student, but Gostisbehere isn't concerned with the swirl of attention surrounding him. He is, however, getting a glimpse of how passionate Philadelphia is about hockey.

There's no denying Philadelphia is a hockey town. Some may say the fans here are intimidating. Others might say crazy. That may be because the city is lacking a true college hockey presence and doesn't have another hockey team to root for now that the Phantoms have relocated. But there's a big difference between professional hockey and the collegiate level. Gostisbehere gets that.

"Every guy is playing for the guy next to him," Gostisbehere said when asked about college hockey culture during Union's press conference on Wednesday. "It's 100 percent all heart out there. College hockey is a dynamic game. Guys are blocking shots that you probably wouldn't see in pro and doing anything for their team just to raise a piece of wood at the end of the year. It's worth everything."

For Gostisbehere, Thursday's game against powerhouse Boston College at 5 p.m. will be the first time he'll play in front of what someday soon could become his home fans. The junior blueliner attended rookie camp with the Flyers last summer but never got the opportunity to skate on the Wells Fargo Center ice. 

"During development camp, we came here and had a tour of the locker room and stuff," Gostisbehere said. "Nothing too big. We saw the ice. I've never skated here before until an hour ago."

It will be a new experience for Gostisbehere to play in the Flyers' home arena. After all, he's used to suiting up at Frank L. Messa rink, which has a capacity of 2,054, in Schenectady, N.Y. That's a far cry from the 20,000 people that can pack the Wells Fargo Center.

But Gostisbehere did venture out to get a small taste of Philly earlier this week.

"[I] did have a Geno's cheesesteak [Tuesday] night, so that was pretty good," he said. "Other than that, I haven't seen Philly too much." 

Gostisbehere is coming off a tremendous season for Union. He registered eight goals and 21 assists this year and was the only defenseman among the first 10 finalists named for the Hobey Baker Award. The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder also helped Union to a 30-6-5 record and the No. 1 ranking in the country.

And though he was left off the ballot for the "Hobey Hat Trick" -- the last three finalists for the award -- Gostisbehere has come a long way from his freshman campaign.

Gostisbehere has fine-tuned his game under the tutelage of head coach Rick Bennett. Offense always came natural to Gostisbehere, but it was the defensive aspect of his game that needed work when he arrived at Union.

"I think the fact that Shayne got better through middle of the year his freshman year in areas of his game where he really decided that this defensive thing is really going to help me here," Bennett said. "This is what we talked about in the recruiting trip. This is what he wanted to get better at. The offensive stuff I'm not teaching him. I think it's a gift.

"It's just bear down defensively, play the game, at least our coaching staff feels the right way. One-hundred percent hockey player instead of 50-percenter. He's bought into it. That's why it's gotten better, and that's why these guys have gotten better."

Gostisbehere has the potential to be the puck-moving, offensive-minded defenseman Flyers fans have dreamed about. He's an excellent skater and terrific passer, but whether or not he can carry that over to the NHL level remains to be seen. 

With a year of eligibility remaining, Gostisbehere hasn't yet indicated whether he'll return to Union next season either. 

But one thing is quite clear: Gostisbehere has his eye on the prize. An elimination from the Frozen Four in the semifinal round two years ago has the defenseman more prepared this time around.

"Of course we wanted to win," he said of Union's first Frozen Four appearance. "It didn't end up our way, but this year's more business approach here, and we're just looking to do some damage better than we did two years ago."

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