NEW YORK - There haven't been many positive story lines coming from the Flyers in the season's first seven-plus weeks, which is why watching shifty defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere's development has been such a refreshing variation.
The player they call "Ghost" was recalled from the AHL's Phantoms two weeks ago because Mark Streit went on the long-term injured reserve list, giving the Flyers some cap room to make a few minor-league promotions.
If early impressions mean anything, Gostisbehere, 22, is going to live up to the hype.
Oh, he still needs to improve his defensive play, but he is making strides in that area, and his work in the offensive end and on the power play has been excellent.
The Florida native has created a buzz with his slick moves and eye-opening speed, energizing a Flyers team that has looked slow and flat.
"He's found a way to make an impact in most of the games, offensively," rookie coach Dave Hakstol said the other day. "And I think he's done a good job defending and moving pucks out of the zone, some of the stuff that doesn't show up in the box score."
Gostisbehere, who led tiny Union College to the NCAA title in 2014, moves the puck quickly in all zones, creating a crispness that the Flyers were missing. They had points in five of his first seven games, during which he scored three goals, including a pair of overtime winners.
Besides his ability to create space to get off shots, Gostisbehere "finds a way to get the forwards the puck, and he makes our jobs a lot easier," said captain Claude Giroux, who has developed a quick chemistry with the rookie on the power play.
Gostisbehere's strong play has made many fans wonder why general manager Ron Hextall didn't have him on the roster at the start of this rebuilding season.
Hextall has made some questionable moves, but having Gostisbehere start the season in the AHL was not one of them.
Sidelined for most of last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and subsequent left-knee surgery, Gostisbehere had a disappointing training camp and was sent to the Phantoms.
Remember, this was a player who had played only nine games above the collegiate level prior to this season. Hence, it was invaluable to get 14 games with Lehigh Valley at the start of this year.
"You learn a lot down there," Gostisbehere said. "I learned a lot of things defensively, like playing without the puck down low. I think that really helped me propel my game to the next level. It was good for me; it makes you hungrier to get back up here - and now it makes you want to stay up here."
Hextall has no regrets about sending Gostisbehere to the Phantoms to start the season.
"It's always beneficial in terms of the hunger and putting your time in, and appreciating it once you get up top," Hextall said of a minor-league stint. "I can't tell you how valuable that is.
"Now that doesn't mean you send a guy down there automatically. If a guy is ready to play and if you have a spot for him," that's a different story.
Hextall pointed out that Gostisbehere would not be running the first power-play unit if Streit was healthy.
"So would he have played the type of minutes he's playing now? No. Did he show in training camp that he was ready to play for the Flyers in October? No," Hextall said. "So the sensible thing was to send him down and give him time to grow."
Hextall said Gostisbehere "didn't have a great training camp and didn't have a ton of confidence, so if a kid goes down there and plays at a little lesser level and settles into the pro game, it was clearly the right move at that time. And I think it's shown now."
Gostisbehere says it's a "much cleaner game" in the NHL. "Everyone is where they're supposed to be. It's faster, it's quicker. Time and space closes quickly, and you have to be ready and be on your toes. You have to be focused for every shift."
Based on Gostisbehere's play with the Flyers since he was promoted, it appears to be a no-brainer that he will remain here. Hextall will have cap problems when Streit returns in about a month, but the GM must find a way to keep Gostisbehere around.
The 5-foot-11, 186-pound defenseman has lots of challenges ahead, including how he handles the punishment of beefier, bigger opponents.
"He's got a window of opportunity here," Hextall said, "and we'll see what he does with it."
So far, so good.