As I started writing my fifth profile, on Shayne Gostisbehere, I realized that I really need to choose players with easier names to spell (next week will be Mike Smith!) Gostisbehere was drafted with the 78th overall pick in the third round in 2012 out of Union College in the NCAA and was on Dobber Prospects’ radar as early as April 2013. After suffering an ACL injury in 2014, no one could have foreseen his excellent rookie season in 2015-2016 or his evolution into a 65-point defenseman in 2017-2018. His career has yo-yoed between very strong and mediocre each season including this year, so what is the real statistical output for Gostisbehere?
Gostisbehere is a big-time power-play producer and was second overall in the NHL last season (16th this year), for goals for on the power play amongst defensemen. His power-play time still hovers just under 4 min/GP and he is the only defenseman on the PP almost 96% of the time when he is on the ice. His IPP on the PP is 60.0 which is not as high as last year but sits slightly below his career average. Where we start to see an effect is in his power play PDO of 0.961 compared to 1.019 from the prior year where his secondary assists were 17 compared to four this campaign. The Flyers’ PP% is 17.3 down from 20.7 in 2017-2018 and most of this decrease can be attributed to puck luck as Sean Couturier is the only first-unit player with a PDO above 1 at 1.019. Gostisbehere and the Flyers should see their power play improve the rest of the season.
At even strength, Gostisbehere is surprisingly consistent. His CF% is currently 52.22 (51.03 overall) which is in the upper range of his career. He produced six goals and 26 assists last season for a career high and currently sits at three goals and 10 assists, and once again his PDO of 0.967 pales in comparison to 1.012 in the prior year. His PDO has snaked as has his production in his four seasons. He is never as good as his best and never as bad as his worst. He doesn’t seem to be paired with anyone in particular on a regular basis, and improves the player he is paired with in most cases.
Gostisbehere is generating shots at a rate of 2.48/game this season compared to 2.81/game in 2017-2018, but his shooting percentage has dipped to 3.7% from his three-year average of 4.5%. As he becomes more reliable in more situations, his offensive zone starts have gone down from over 60% to 54.3% and he has become less sheltered. This will affect his plus/minus along with the bad puck luck evidenced in his PDO.
One thing I worry about with defensemen that come out of virtually nowhere and succeed is that most will falter and be replaced by another up-and-coming player. In the case of Gostisbehere, he hasn’t really faltered (aside from last year’s playoffs), and the players on the roster or in the system for Philadelphia that could replace him are Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, or perhaps Philippe Myers. On the outside of that, you have Robert Hagg and prospects who are 2-4 years away in Wyatte Wylie and Yegor Zamula.
Gostisbehere is such a bargain at a $4.25 million cap hit that the Flyers would be foolish to part with him before 2022-23 unless his play really falls off. He is not as young as most fourth-year players but he certainly should be able to find a common ground between the peaks and valleys of his first four seasons. If you are in a salary cap league that has any defenseman bonus, you should hold onto him for at least the next 3 or 4 years. Although I don’t think he will approach being a 17-goal scorer again, he should net 10-13 each year and contribute 35-45 assists with quite a few points on the power play. If you have plus/minus in your league, it appears that Gostisbehere is more of a risk as he becomes less sheltered and it appears puck luck and the Flyers’ team performance will factor in more than the player himself. Expect a window of plus- or minus-10 each year.
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