LAS VEGAS — Shayne Gostisbehere felt special just being one of three finalists nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy for top rookie, so he wasn’t upset that he didn’t become the first Flyers player to ever win the award.
“I think it is an accomplishment in itself just being here,” Gostisbehere said Wednesday before finishing second to the Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin. “It is a tremendous honor just to be a finalist, of course. Whatever happens, happens, and I’m just happy to be a part of it, a really good rookie class.”
Panarin finished with 1,258 points (88 first place) in the voting to Gostisbehere's 955 points (33 first place). Connor McDavid (Oilers — 858 points), Jack Eichel (Sabres — 449) and Dylan Larkin (Red Wings — 170) rounded out the top five.
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Although Panarin won the Calder Trophy at the NHL Awards banquet at the Hard Rock Resort after notching 30 goals and 47 assists during his first NHL season, Gostisbehere made his name known throughout the NHL.
Gostisbehere, who was coming off an ACL injury suffered early in the 2014-15 season, started the 2015-16 campaign in the AHL. He was promoted to the Flyers on Nov. 14 and went on to tally 17 goals and 29 assists in 64 games. The goal total was a franchise record by a rookie defenseman.
Gostisbehere also had a 15-game scoring streak, which was the longest by a defenseman in the last 20 years. Another record he set was becoming the first rookie to score four overtime goals.
“It’s definitely special to be here,” Gostisbehere said. “Look around, some of the guys in this room, it’s pretty special just to be associated with the award. Obviously, it’s a little struggle to be here with the year before, but [I came] back strong.
“You start to realize it a little more as the season is over and you wind down a bit, so it’s pretty special to be here.”
Gostisbehere, obviously, wouldn’t have minded if the Calder Trophy had gone to him.
“It would mean a lot to me, just for everyone who has helped me get here,” Gostisbehere said. “It would be for everyone who has had a hand in my ability to play hockey. It would be pretty special to me and definitely be an honor.
“I started in the minors this year, and when you get called up you don’t think you’re going to be on the team for the next 60-some games. It’s definitely a special season. I definitely didn’t expect it, but I’m happy it happened.
“I learned a lot about myself, how to be a professional … taking care of your body on and off the ice, and being a smart person off the ice.
“I won’t say it is easier [than playing in the AHL] but you’re playing against the top-end talent in the world … guys are in the right spots and it’s pretty fun out there.”
Gostisbehere wasn’t the lone Calder Trophy finalist who had to rebound from injury. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, who recorded 16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games, was sidelined with a broken clavicle. But the injury didn’t keep the 2015 No. 1 draft pick from being nominated as a finalist.
“It was definitely cool to see how [McDavid] bounced back like that,” Gostisbehere said. “I went through an injury, too, and just the way you bounce back like that, not only physically out there but mentally as well, getting back out there. He’s going to be the face of the NHL for a while now. He’s a great player and it’s fun to watch him.”
Gostisbehere watches a lot of players, but he said he doesn’t model himself after anyone in particular.
“He’s (Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, who was a Norris Cup finalist for top defenseman) high on talent and one of the best offensive guys the league has seen for a while now,” Gostisbehere said. “He’s definitely a great player, and I think we both like the offensive side a bit.
“I don’t look at one guy, I look at all of them and I just try to do my game. I don’t try to model my game after someone else. But the way they play, the way [Karlsson] plays, offensive guys, I take that all in. I see that and I try to apply it to myself.
“My role is an offensive guy, but you can contribute differently … the first pass on the breakout, get the puck in your forwards’ hands. It’s not necessarily all about points.
“That’s what people see of course is points, points, points. Give us a lot of points and you’ve had a good year. It’s the way you help your team out, too. Of course, blocking a shot or something like that is the way to help your team out.’’
Gostisbehere is now thinking about how he can help the Flyers out during the 2016-17 season.
“Keep your head down and go to the grindstone,” he said. “Nothing changes, remember what got you here and just keep going.
“[Flyers management] told me I had a great year and they were proud of me. I didn’t let anything get to my head, so to say. They just want me to keep going. They’re not going to pat you on the back too much, but they were happy for me. I was happy for the type of season I had, especially for the year I had before.
“I played two games the year before (2014-15), but just coming back this year after a debilitating knee injury … coming back and telling myself I’m here again, let’s make something happen. It worked out.”