Shayne Gostisbehere has graduated from a nice rookie story to a Philadelphia Flyers phenomenon. The 22-year-old defenseman holds the NHL record for most points in consecutive games by a rookie defenseman with 15.
He is shooting up the rookie points race, with 37 in 47 games. Entering Friday's games, that was good for No. 5 among rookies (tied with Arizona's Anthony Duclair, who has played 19 more games) with everyone ahead of him playing at least 60 games. They're also all forwards.
He should be a Calder Trophy finalist and a strong finish could push him to the top of that race.
Most important to him, he has helped push the Flyers back into the playoff picture, as they sit just three points out of a postseason spot.
The player called "Ghost" talked to ESPN.com's Craig Custance about the wild ride and his hopes of reaching the postseason in his rookie season.
Custance: You've now moved from NHL rookie to folk hero. How has this ride been for you?
Gostisbehere: It's definitely been a wild ride. It's pretty crazy. If someone told me this was going to happen at the beginning of the year, I'd have said, 'You're pretty crazy.' It's been a fun ride and to experience it with my teammates, coaches and everything has been a lot of fun.
Custance: What was the one point this season where you were like, 'I can't believe this is happening?'
Gostisbehere: Just when you get called up and you're in the NHL and you're scoring goals and doing stuff that you know you're typically not supposed to be doing. I think some of the OT winners, I've been like, 'What is going on?' It's a wild ride. It's crazy. It's been a lot of fun for sure.
Custance: Is it true that every single one of your goals has tied the score or given the Flyers the lead? Can that be right?
Gostisbehere: I think so. I haven't looked too much into it. I believe so.
Custance: Has that always been the case with you? Have you always had a penchant for big goals?
Gostisbehere: Every time I'm on the ice, I'm just trying to help my team. If it's in the D-zone, helping my team get out of the D-zone. If it's the offensive zone, trying to score. Just going out there trying to do whatever I can to help my team.
Custance: When was the moment you knew you were in the NHL to stay?
Gostisbehere: I really don't know. This whole experience has been a whirlwind for me. You can ask anyone, I'm just happy to be here. It's been a special ride but it's something you look at where you don't want short-term success, you want long-term success. You want to stay within yourself and have fun doing it.
Custance: Your coach Dave Hakstol doesn't seem like the kind of guy who is throwing out a lot of bouquets of praise publicly. Is he the same way privately?
Gostisbehere: He's that kind of guy. He's an all-business guy. He expects a lot from his players. He's going to be ready, so you'd better be ready. He's an all-business sort of man. We kind of like it that way. He's been great with us. He says the right things at the right time. He's pulling on the same side of the rope as us and it's shown, for sure. He's doing a great job.
Custance: From the outside, this was viewed as a transition year for the Flyers. I'm not sure many of us predicted you guys in a playoff spot. What has kept you in the race?
Gostisbehere: To be honest, we're a hungry team. Every time we're out there, we're clawing. It's a dog fight. We want to be a team that teams say, 'Aw, crap, we have to play them tonight. They're a hard team to play against.' That's the type of team we are, we're hard-nosed, we're gritty, we're hard to play against. It's something that's instilled not only in this team but the Flyers organization.
Custance: You suffered a torn ACL last season early on in your transition to becoming a pro. What was the hardest part about that process?
Gostisbehere: It was pretty hard. Your first year pro, you've only played seven games. The whole time during the rehab, I believed I would come back and play a little bit at the end of the year. Toward the end of my rehab, the Phantoms weren't making the playoffs. The risk of playing was not worth the reward. It was just smart to shut me down for the rest of the year and focus on my rehab and have a good summer and focus on this year. At the time, I was a little upset because I wanted to play; I can't thank the Flyers organization enough for making me realize there's a bigger picture and bright future. They really helped me through that.
Custance: What were those conversations like?
Gostisbehere: [The knee] wasn't fully 100 percent but I could definitely play. It was the sort of thing where you could still get hurt. The risk just wasn't worth the reward.
Custance: We're seeing more American players in the NHL come from non-traditional states, including you. How was the hockey scene growing up in Florida?
Gostisbehere: Fortunately for me, there are a lot of ex-NHL players who retired to Florida. For a good four to five years, I had a man by the name of Ray Sheppard -- he played for the Panthers, played for the Red Wings a bit -- he was my coach for four or five years. He molded us to be little mini-pros. He took us to the best tournaments. He gave us the chance to play against the best hockey players our age. We didn't win a lot but it was just good to experience that, to get out there and play with the best.
Custance: What did Ray teach you to prepare you for this moment?
Gostisbehere: I would say just being a pro and realizing you can't get complacent. It can be taken from you any day. You have to work hard for anything you get no matter where you are, you can get noticed.
Custance: Man, that's great exposure to have a player of that caliber guide you at that age.
Gostisbehere: Yeah, we were a tremendously lucky little group there. We had some guys do great things from that team.
Custance: You're one of a few high-profile players in the Calder race, along with Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin, who took the college path to the NHL. What did you learn at Union to prepare you for the next step?
Gostisbehere: College, it matures you in such a way that you're prepared for adulthood and the adult life. Even the pro life. At my school, I know the coaches don't only recruit for hockey skill, they recruit for character as well. A big thing on my team at Union and our success was how humble we were. We just took care of business on the ice, that's what we used as our talking, our play. That was just huge for us. That's what college teaches you. You realize you come from humble roots, you stick to those roots and remember what got you there.
Custance: Is it hard to stay humble when you're breaking every Flyers rookie defenseman record?
Gostisbehere: (Laughs) It's not hard for me. I've got a good support team, with my girlfriend and my family and even my teammates make sure my helmet still fits at the end of the day. They're good guys. I'm definitely not worried about it. You have to stay humble, stay within yourself and remember what got you here.
Custance: What's the worst butchering of your last name you've heard?
Gostisbehere: Oh, there's a bunch. I don't know. Something that ends with a Berry. That happens a lot. It's pretty bad.
Custom GhostBear Jersey.
[via /r/flyers] pic.twitter.com/AYbayb3mef
— BarDown (@BarDown) March 9, 2016
Custance: You think the Ghost-Bear Twitter emoticons will help people? That seems to simplify things.
Gostisbehere: Yeah, there are some visual learners out there. That'll be pretty cool.
Custance: Have you seen the Flyers jersey that has the Ghost and Bear emoticon instead of the nameplate?
Gostisbehere: Yeah, I saw that yesterday. A couple of my buddies texted it to me. I had a good laugh. I thought it was hilarious.
Custance: Have you been able to take a moment to enjoy this ride in the middle of a pressure-filled playoff race?
Gostisbehere: Yeah, you take everything in stride here. The limelight is going to happen, it's all in how you deal with it. It's important just to remember where you came from, remember what got you here and never steer away from that.