All Flyers fans have come to appreciate the talent that is Ivan Provorov over the past year. After the Flyers took him seventh overall in a draft that had featured Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel being selected first and second overall respectively, there was nothing but high expectations for the 18-year-old. Over the next year, Provorov played for the junior team called the Brandon Wheat Kings, and ended up winning the WHL championship, as well as the CHL Defenseman of the Year and WHL Defenseman of the Year. He also finished with the most points by a defenseman, registering 73 points through 62 games, and boasted the best plus/minus in the league, with an outstanding +64.
After achieving all of those accomplishments, it was clear Provorov was not going to benefit from another year in the juniors; when he joined the Flyers right out of camp, it was a surprise to no one. Throughout his first few games, however, you could tell that he was a rookie. The biggest tell was during the game against Chicago, when he finished at -5. There are a lot of rookies who would not have been able to rebound from something like this as smoothly as Provorov did. As we know, he ended up becoming the Flyers top defenseman for the rest of the year and it looks like he will be repeating the same feat again this year.
As the Flyers’ defensemen went down with injuries, Dave Hakstol and the rest of the team relied on Provorov to play an absurd amount of minutes for a player only a dozen or so games into his second year. Despite this, he has been playing like he has been in the league for years. Over the past five games, he has averaged 28:07 TOI and has not missed a beat. For virtually every shift, he has been one of the best players on the ice, which has increased his playing time and has allowed fans to watch him for almost half the game. Provorov has future Norris Trophy winner written all over him.
Heading into the draft, he was being compared to Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames due to his puck-moving abilities. After seeing him play one-plus years in the NHL, however, many believe his career may follow the path of Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.
Doughty was drafted second overall (behind Steven Stamkos) in the 2008 draft and he has been one of the top defensemen in the league ever since. Like Provorov, Doughty had a quiet rookie season offensively, posting 27 points. However, just like Provorov, he was an amazing player in his own end from the outset. Doughty seemed to break out offensively during his second season, posting 59 points through 82 games, and was named a Norris Trophy finalist as a result. Although he has never matched that career high, Doughty has gone on to be a perennial All-Star and contend for the Norris Trophy every year. Provorov may not reach those numbers this year with Shayne Gostisbehere playing on the team’s first power play unit and in almost all offensive situations, but Provorov possesses the hockey skills to do so in the future. In the most recent game against the Arizona Coyotes, he showed his ability to play the role Gostisbehere does on the man advantage. When the Flyers were down in the game, they pulled the goalie and Provorov had a couple of amazing keeps at the blueline.
He ended up recording two assists on that shift, as the Flyers went on to tie the game with their goalie pulled. It was eerily similar to the kind of amazing keeps that Gostisbehere has at the blueline. Although Provorov’s may not be as flashy as Gostisbehere’s, he still has the ability to make those great plays to keep the team alive.
It may be a tad optimistic to be viewing the 20-year-old Provorov as the NHL’s next future top defenseman, but with his poise on the blue line through his first year-plus, it is not a stretch to believe that he will become just that. He has the ability to shut down a team’s first line for an entire game, as was shown when the Flyers played the Oilers and Capitals this year and he held stars McDavid and Alexander Ovechkin pointless. He is an amazing player and I personally cannot wait to see how his career grows while wearing the Flyers’ sweater.