With the World Junior Hockey Championships underway in Russia, the Flyers find themselves with just one representative in the tournament. Luckily for the organization and its loyal followers that representative is Shayne Gostisbehere, and has the talent to make us proud — but what can we realistically expect from the sophomore from Union College?
It needs to be said off the get go: the sky is the limit, but “Ghost” isn’t in the elite echelon of defensemen in this tournament. There have been talks of the next superstar on the blue line for the Orange and Black, but he has yet to prove he has regular top pairing potential in the NHL at this point in his career. If he wants to take that step, he is going to have to play a game that compares to Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, and Dougie Hamilton, who will likely duke it out for a spot on the all-tournament team.
So how can he take that step?
First and foremost, I want to see if he can continue to play his up-tempo offensive game versus his more talented opposition. The offensive game is his hallmark, and he will need to keep it going if he wishes to have success in his career. If he can continue to make good breakout passes and get the puck on the net like he did the exhibition games, it should not be an issue.
Though the talent level may be higher, his opponents might actually be a bit smaller than his typical college rival; so I’ll be looking for Gostisbehere to use the body defensively. Listed at 5-foot-11, his physicality isn’t necessarily his calling card, but his stick-work and decision-making are well regarded. He could use another compliment to his defensive game, and riding some of the best of the world heavily into the boards is surely a way to boost your confidence and hone in a new skill.
Last but not least, I’ll be looking for Gostisbehere in key situations late in the game. During the exhibition contest versus Sweden, Gostisbehere was on the ice in all situations for the USA squad with time winding down, before eventually finding the net in overtime. With team USA dressing its full squad, Gostisbehere will only see the ice late in a tight game if he earns it. Seeing him on special teams and offensive zone draws would be a great sign for the potential offensive powerhouse; but seeing him on the ice with the game on the line would be even better for a potential all-around defenseman.
There is a lot to like about the WJHC tournament, but Shayne Gostisbehere brings an added reason for joy this holiday season to many Flyers fans around the world looking in on Ufa, Russia. In a year marked by success for the potential NHLer, has he saved his best for last?
I leave you with an interesting bit of WJHC Flyers trivia: Scott Laughton is in danger of becoming the only Flyers first rounder since Justin Williams to not play in the WJHC U20 tournament — and Williams went right to the NHL after being drafted. Every other first round pick has represented his country before going pro in this tournament. Luckily for him, there is still time!
find me on twitter!