Anyone who has ever played with Shayne Gostisbehere has a ‘Ghost’ story.
It’s usually a tale of Gostisbehere making an otherworldly play to set-up, or score, a goal. It’s not quite supernatural, but it’s slick enough to make you wonder whether you can believe what you are seeing. When you combine his name with his uncanny ability, you come up with the nickname “Ghost.”
“Yeah. he’s skilled and he’ll make those high-danger plays and nine out of 10 times he’s getting the puck through,” said new Red Wings forward Christian Fischer who played with Gostisbehere in Arizona. “It’s his IQ and how to read the play. He’s not the biggest guy, not the fastest, but defensively he knows. He thinks the game at such a top level. He can play against the top line every night because he knows their style.”
The Red Wings signed Gostisbehere for one year at $4.125 million to upgrade their power play, but Fischer believes ‘Ghost’ will help in a variety of ways.
“I think he’s a tremendous player,” Fischer said. “He had a couple of rough years in Philly. I think he got injured there pretty good and I think he’s back being the Shane Gostisbehere he was for 90% of his career. That’s a damn good player in my opinion.”
Learned Hockey in Sunshine State
Even Gostisbehere’s hockey start was unusual. He grew up in South Florida where his French father was a professional jai alai player. His older sister was a high level figure skater and Gostisbehere’s first memories of going to an ice rink were trying to find a place to sleep there when he accompanied his sister to her pre-dawn practices. Soon, he was always hanging out at the rink.
“I had a grandpa from Montreal, so that helped a lot,” Gostisbehere said. “He was a season ticket holder to the (Florida) Panthers and I went to every game as a kid. Just fell in love with the game.”
Union College was the only college that recruited him strongly. He was passed over in the NHL draft the first year he was eligible. Gostisbehere was undersized and scouts weren’t sure he was big enough to handle the rigors of the NHL.
But he proved himself with the Philadelphia Flyers, finishing second in the Calder Trophy voting after scoring 17 goals. He also enjoyed a 65-point season with the Flyers before falling out of favor there. Two strong seasons Arizona has restored his confidence. He also played impressively for the Carolina Hurricanes when he was dealt there before the trade deadline
“I’ll forever be grateful and thankful for the Coyotes organization giving me that opportunity over the last couple of years,” Gostisbehere said. “It’s spring-boarded me into the opportunity I got with Carolina.”
Gostisbehere scored 13 goals last season. No Red Wings defenseman reached double figures in goals.
Ghost is Always Visible
Gostisbehere has always been better defensively than his reputation suggests.
“Offensive guys, they get a lot of flack for their defensive side. That’s the first chirp of any offensive guy. They’re gonna say you can’t play defense. For me, any coach I’ve gone to for the first time, they say, ‘I’m surprised that your defensive game is pretty good.’ Gostisbehere said. “I’m like yeah, because I take pride in it.”
“Obviously on the left side it’s a little more comfortable,” Gostisbehere said. “Pucks are rimmed around you on the offensive blue line. It’s a little easier to pick up. When it comes low to high you can one-time them. There’s definitely some strengths to playing on the right side, too. A lot of my fakes work a little more on the right side to be honest. You can one-time a lot more pucks from your partner, too. The gap is a little different defensively.”
Ghost Owns Wicked Shot
But what the Red Wings want most from Gostisbehere is his offensive flair, particularly on the power play. He can hammer the puck.
“He’s one of those guys that from the point just has a knack of getting the puck through. Often these offensive defensemen, it’s obvious they have good shots and they can place them. It’s their ability to get it through that first layer and get it to the net. There’s different things that make you successful, but being an offensive defenseman, it’s being able to get the puck through. ”
Gostisbehere isn’t shy about sharing his secret.
“Shoot the puck,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. I’m blessed to have a pretty hard shot. I try to get it off as quick as I can and get pucks through. My grandpa will text me after every game. ‘Only two shots? What’s going on?’ He wants me to shoot every puck I see. ”