The ‘Ghost Bear’ was downright dominant during his rookie season one year prior, posting 17 goals and 46 points in just 64 games for the Flyers. That stat line earned him a nomination for the Calder Memorial Trophy, for which he earned more votes than fellow rookie Connor McDavid.
Then Gostisbehere’s sophomore campaign hit, and back to Earth he came.
He didn’t fall off completely – the Pembroke Pines, Fla. native still finished the season with 39 points through 76 tilts – but with his goal total dropping to seven and his club missing the playoffs, it’s safe to say Gostisbehere’s second go-round in the big leagues wasn’t quite as enjoyable as his first.
“It humbled me a bit,” Gostisbehere said in an interview with NHL Tonight on Thursday. “There was a huge learning curve for me, I’d say. I know my rookie season, it was a great season, but I think everything that could have possibly gone right went right that year. Obviously I didn’t get the bounces last year.”
Undergoing hip and abdominal surgery in the summer following his rookie campaign, Gostisbehere’s promising progress was halted. However, the smooth-skating defender said most of the lingering issues were in his head.
“It’s your thought process,” Gostisbehere said to NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman on Friday. “You’re making cuts, you’re doing things (and) you think about it. ‘I could have gone a little faster there. Is that from the surgery?’ It’s more mental than anything.”
That hesitation should be out of his system this time around, Gostisbehere said, as he’s been able to put together an uninterrupted summer of training – including some game action with fellow NHLers Johnny Gaudreau and Justin Williams at the Checking for Charity tournament.
“Last summer I was going through some hectic rehab and stuff,” Gostisbehere said. “This year I got to have a great summer of training and taking care of my body, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”
A return to form would certainly be greatly appreciated by the Flyers faithful. After a string of five straight playoff appearances between 2007-12, which included a division title in 2011, Philadelphia has earned a shot at post-season glory just twice in the past five years.
Gostisbehere’s emergence has been one of the organization’s lone brightest spots amid that slide, prompting the club to sign its young blue-line star to a six-year, $27-million deal in June.
The 24-year-old said he’s ready to live up to that new deal in 2017-18.
“I really have no excuses here,” Gostisbehere said. “I should have a great year, and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”