Bobby Clarke did not win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year. Neither did Bill Barber, Eric Lindros, or Claude Giroux.

Or any Flyer, for that matter, since the franchise started in 1967-68.

Shayne Gostisbehere could change that.

Oh, the swift-skating defenseman is far from the favorite, but he has at least become a part of the rookie-of-the-year conversation.

Gostisbehere was recalled from the Phantoms on Nov. 14 and has taken the NHL by storm and re-energized the Flyers.

Entering Saturday, he led NHL rookie defensemen in goals (eight) and points (19) despite playing in just 27 games.

Chicago winger Artemi Panarin, who entered the weekend leading rookies in goals (16), assists (29), and points (45), is the Calder favorite, though two goalies - Anaheim's John Gibson (1.86 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) and Winnipeg's Connor Hellebuyck (2.05 GAA, .930 save percentage) - are also strong contenders.

Others rookies of note: Detroit center Dylan Larkin (30 points, plus-21 rating), St. Louis defenseman Colton Parayko (19 points, plus-17), Arizona winger Max Domi (31 points), and Buffalo center Jack Eichel (30 points).

Connor McDavid, sidelined since fracturing his collarbone against the Flyers on Nov. 3, was averaging a rookie-best 0.92 points per game before being injured in his 13th game. Heading into the weekend, Panarin was averaging 0.90 points per game, and Gostisbehere was third at 0.70 points per game.

Not bad for a player who missed most of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. During some of his rehab, Gostisbehere sat in the press box next to Kjell Samuelsson, who works in the team's player-development department, and got to pick the brain of the former NHL defenseman while absorbing what he was watching on the ice.

Gostisbehere, 22, is confident in his ability, but he conceded he was a "little bit" surprised that he has made such a smooth transition from the AHL to the NHL. He played in just five AHL games last year before being injured, and 14 games there this season.

"It's definitely pretty cool to do things at this level," he said, "but you have to stay within yourself, stay humble, and just stick with the process that got you here."

Gostisbehere, a third-round steal in the 2012 draft, had a pair of assists Thursday in his first career game against archrival Pittsburgh, and he has an admirer in the Penguins' Kris Letang, one of the NHL's top defensemen.

"His shot ... he's got a bomb," Letang said. "For a young guy to come into the league and manage a power play with that much talent on it, it's impressive."

Gostisbehere has eight goals - five shy of equaling the Flyers' rookie record for defenseman, 13 by Behn Wilson in 1978-79.

In just 21/2 months in the NHL, the player they call "Ghost" has conjured memories of Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins - the two best defensemen in Flyers history - because of his speed and puck-moving ability.

Winger Wayne Simmonds said he thought Gostisbehere was going to be something special during a two-game stint with the Flyers last season.

"You could tell what he brought to the team or what he's going to bring to the team," Simmonds said. "And you can really see he is starting to get comfortable now."

Case in point: Gostisbehere, whose hockey IQ is off the charts, intercepted a pass between the circles in the Flyers' defensive end Tuesday and started a breathtaking three-on-one break late in the game against Toronto. He finished the rush by firing a left-circle wrist shot through the legs of goalie James Reimer, knotting the score at 2-2 and igniting one of the loudest roars at the Wells Fargo Center this season.

Gostisbehere's offensive game was NHL-ready from the start. His defense is beginning to catch up.

"You can see his game is taking shape and coming into form," Simmonds said. "He's starting to play better defensively, and I think the way he's reading plays and picking off passes is unbelievable. It's nice to see him keep growing as a player and he's going to keep getting better."

Scary thought.

scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

www.philly.com/flyersblog