Meet Shayne Gostisbehere: Rising College Star and Future of Flyers' Blue Line

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Meet Shayne Gostisbehere: Rising College Star and Future of Flyers' Blue Line
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Shayne Gostisbehere may not be the most well-known prospect in the Flyers' organization, but he has been generating some considerable buzz over the past few weeks.

He was a third-round pick in 2012, and has participated in Philadelphia's past two training camps. But after flying under the radar for a couple years now, "Ghost" is about to break into the spotlight.

But first, we have to actually get to know more about the Flyers' prospect.

The defenseman is a junior at Union College, and he has been the team's best player this season. He leads the 11th-ranked Dutchmen in points, with 15 in 13 games. 

Clearly, he's an offensive-minded defenseman, which is exactly what the Flyers are looking for right now. But don't expect him suit up for the Orange and Black any time soonGostisbehere stated this summer that he intends to honor his four-year commitment to Union.

And even after Gostisbehere finishes his senior season next year, there will still be a lot of work to do before the NHL.

One of the biggest knocks on Gostisbehere as a prospect is his size. Coming in at 5'11", 160 pounds, it is easy to dismiss him as too small to become a good NHL player.

But the Flyers have current proof that smaller defenseman can still be effectiveKimmo Timonen, Mark Streit and Erik Gustafsson are all under 6'0" and weigh less than 195 lbs, but they still contribute in big ways.

Minnesota's Jonas Brodin was two inches taller, but only slightly heavier than Gostisbehere before he broke into the NHL, and the 20-year-old has been incredibly impressive in his second NHL season this year. 

The NHL is becoming a faster league which allows for these small, quick and smart players to use their skating ability and instincts to be efficient and productive on both ends of the ice.

Gostisbehere's improvement from his freshman season has been particularly evident this winter, and he has become a more complete defenseman. He's an effortless skater who reads the game well and puts himself and his teammates in positions to make plays.

He was a big part of the United States squad that won gold at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship last January.

His unique background is another reason Gostisbehere is so unknown. He hails from probably the least-likely place for an NHL career to be born.

Gostisbehere grew up in Florida, where he spent a lot of time around ice rinks because his sister was a top figure skater. His grandfather is a native of Montreal, and he bought him skates when he expressed an interest in hockey. The rest is history.

He played in the Florida Panthers' junior program before leaving for prep school in Connecticut, where he continued to develop his game and committed to Union.

Gostisbehere may have an uncommon upbringing for a hockey prospect, but his talent is undeniable, and he makes a big impact every time he steps on the ice.

His stick-handling ability is also an asset of his, and he uses it to transition out of his own zone and to create offense up the ice. He is aggressive with the puck and loves to pull the trigger. He took an unbelievable 12 shots against Penn State a few days ago while registering two goals.

Gostisbehere has also made strides in a couple other less noticeable areas this season. He was named an alternate captain by his coaches, which is a testament to his leadership, and he's also been given a lot of time on the penalty kill, which indicates improved defensive ability.

This added responsibility is a huge step in Gostisbehere's development, and it speaks volumes that he is still leading his team in points with extra weight on his shoulders.

That incredible talent and production even caused Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey to wonder if Gostisbehere is the best prospect in college hockey. Hughes' article came on the heels of RPI's head coach, Seth Appert, declaring after their matchup with Union that Gostisbehere was indeed the best player in the nation.

It is tough to say for sure, but just the fact that he is in the mix is telling.

In the end, it really all comes back to one main thing which should make Flyers fans jump for joy: the kid can skate. 

This clip shows Gostisbehere's athleticism and skill with the puck, as he knocks down the puck, gets up, beats a defender and then sets up a teammate for a goal. If you go ahead and watch that entire highlight video, you'll see a kid who moves well and is quick to pull the trigger from the point.

That big shot is accurate, and you can find a number of examples of Gostisbehere striding forward or taking passes and ripping the puck past the goaltender.

He was named the ECAC player of the week a couple weeks back, and it wouldn't be crazy to consider him a front-runner for the Hobey Baker Award. 

The Flyers seem to have found a solid talent in Gostisbehere, and fans should pay more attention to his progress as he takes the NCAA hockey world by storm this winter. 

There's a lot of reasons to have high hopes for his NHL future, but for now, it's time to just sit back and let the kid develop. 

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