Will the real Philadelphia Flyers please stand up? The 2019-20 NHL season couldn’t begin soon enough. Hockey addicts across the Philadelphia region are pumped, and they can’t wait for the season to get started already. Remember the good old days of the Flyers being impatient? Those days are long gone…history, zip, zilch.
The new and improved Flyers organization now headed by General Manager Chuck Fletcher finally got rid of some waste this past offseason, and hopefully, the end result will be with a parade down Broad Street in a few years.
There are some players on the Flyers roster that have a lot to prove this coming season. If these players do not improve from last season, then the end result might be the Flyers missing the playoffs for the second straight season. From now until training camp opens, we will produce one article per week highlighting a Flyers player with the most to prove for the upcoming season. First up, defenseman Ivan Provorov.
Provorov was born on January 13, 1997, in Yaroslavl, Russia. At age 13, Provorov left his parents, brother, and sister in Yaroslavl, Russia, for Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The smooth-skating defenseman had big dreams of playing in the NHL someday, as he began playing for a Wilkes-Barre youth hockey team.
“Provy,” was rated as a top prospect in 2014-15, and he was selected 7th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Flyers. He finally fulfilled his lifelong dream of possibly playing in the NHL. After being drafted by the Flyers, he continued playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings for the 2015-16 season. Provorov won the WHL championship with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2015-16 and was named WHL defenseman of the year. He signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers on July 3, 2015.
The former Brandon Wheat Kings product wanted to make a good impression on the Flyers brass in training camp, in hopes of staying up with the big club, and that’s exactly what transpired. His hard work paid off in a big way, as Provorov was added to the Flyers roster for the 2016-17 season. He made his NHL debut on October 14, 2016, against the Los Angeles Kings. Provorov recorded his first NHL point, an assist, in the same game. He scored his first NHL goal on November 23, 2016, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After playing against the Chicago Blackhawks on October 18, 2016, Provorov had arguably the worst game of his young career. Dennis Rasmussen was one-on-one against Provorov in the Flyers zone, but the young defenseman fell down, allowing Rasmussen a chance alone on goaltender Michal Neuvirth. Rasmussen put the puck through Neuvirth’s legs for a 2-0 Blackhawks lead. The Blackhawks would go on to win the game 7-4.
At a young age of 20, Provorov looked to be the man on the blueline for the orange and black. Proof in the pudding came after the game on November 2, 2017, against the St. Louis Blues. The orange and black defeated the Blues 2-0, as Provorov played nearly half the game amassing 27:11 in ice time. This marked his fourth consecutive game above 27 minutes in ice time. Even more impressive, Provorov was a human shield by blocking a whopping 10 shots. His nine blocked shots through two periods were a franchise record, a record that has stood since 1997.
This young man tallied 17 goals, 24 assists, was a plus 17, managed to block 169 shots, and averaged 24:09 in ice time per game. Simply put, Provorov was a warrior all season and played with one arm in game 6 against the Penguins.
Fast forward to the 2018-19 season, a season that Provorov was to be the leader the Flyers needed to stabilize a young blue line, at a young age of just 21. It was a season that Provorov would likely want to forget, as he was beaten to the puck at times, wasn’t good with his stick, made many turnovers, and unfortunately looked out of sorts. Many thought (and still think) that Provorov wasn’t healthy from a shoulder injury that occurred against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs of the previous season.
Provorov just didn’t look the same in 2018-19, but he told me in training camp that he was healthy, “I was able to train like I always do in the offseason. I was 100% by June.” Whether or not, Provorov was hurt, or just had an off-year in his contract season. He needs to be better this coming season, as the Flyers don’t have another defenseman on their roster that is capable of playing 25:07 minutes per night, like Provorov, did for the Flyers last season.
Yes, Provorov is a work-horse, as he logs a ton of minutes. But, the Flyers need him to stabilize the back-end, as this would help alleviate the pressure for a young netminder in Carter Hart. The professional that Provorov is will tell you that he needs to be better. He does not sugar coat things, and Provorov never will. Provorov has a world of talent, and there is little doubt that he bounces back this season. He is just too talented not to do so.
Make no mistake about it, Provorov can rebound this season. Consistency will be the key for him. However, he has the goods and the will to be a very good player for the Flyers this season. If Provorov does in fact have a rebound season, then watch out NHL. The Flyers could be a lethal team to play against this year.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jamey Baskow, 34, Flyers Guru, Sports Enthuiast
Follow me on Twitter@JameyBaskow