A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece examining the impact that Matt Niskanen has had on Ivan Provorov since he joined the Philadelphia Flyers. After being traded from the Washington Capitals in June of 2019, Matt Niskanen began his 13th NHL season as a member of the Flyers. He was placed on the first defensive pair with 23-year-old phenom Ivan Provorov. Through 56 games played together, Provorov’s offensive numbers (10 goals, 18 assists, 28 points) have already surpassed last season’s (7 goals, 19 assists, 26 points) and his overall play has appeared more confident and energized. I believe this has a great deal to do with Niskanen skating on his right side. Considering the dynamic play of this defensive duo so far, I thought it would be interesting to explore matters from the opposite viewpoint. What impact, if any, has Ivan Provorov had on Matt Niskanen?
The Flyers view Ivan Provorov as the future of its franchise. Provorov is a very talented, young two-way defenseman who has not yet reached his full potential. To help expedite the process, the Flyers wanted to add an experienced, offensive-minded, veteran blueliner for Provorov and the rest of the youthful defensive corps. Enter 33-year-old Minnesota native Matt Niskanen.
Prior to donning the orange and black, Niskanen had just concluded one of his worst seasons in Washington, D.C. In 80 games played, he compiled a total of 25 points (8 goals, 17 assists) in 2018-19, which was four points fewer than his previous season low with the Capitals. Matt also recorded a -3 in the +/- column, which tied for third-worst in his career. All of this while averaging 21:56 of ice time per game.
Nisky spent last season on the Caps’ second defensive pairing with Dmitry Orlov; another left-handed shooting Russian. Throughout the 2018-19 campaign, Orlov exhibited numerous instances of sloppy play. The 28-year-old blueliner acquired a career-high 80 giveaways. He also took more penalties than usual, racking up the second-highest total of penalty minutes in his career (33). Perhaps skating alongside Dmitry Orlov may have had a negative effect on Matt Niskanen.
Matt was known as a leader during his time with the Capitals. He was influential during games as well as in the locker room. However, he had to take a backseat to alternate captain and fellow defenseman Brooks Orpik and other higher profile members of the team.
Since his arrival in Philadelphia and onto the first pair with Ivan Provorov, we have seen a much different Matt Niskanen. The veteran has flourished with 26 points (7 goals, 19 assists) through just 56 games. He has three power play goals, which ties his career best, as well as his only ever short-handed goal, which came on February 3rd in a 3-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. To top that off, Matt has 9 points (2 goals, 7 assists) and 10 blocks in his last 11 games played. Nisky is third on the team in blocks (63) and hits (97), and is in second place (behind Ivan Provorov) for the most average time on ice (21:49). His play this season seems more effective and he appears more self-assured while on the ice, especially in crucial game-altering situations.
Once Matt Niskanen was able to truly assert himself as a veteran leader by becoming the Flyers’ oldest defenseman, the second oldest on the entire roster (behind 34-year-old Brian Elliott), as well as being the only member of the team with a Stanley Cup ring, he entered into a role that suits him perfectly. Being put in a position night after night where he is able to guide and support the younger players on the team has proven to be not only something that Matt excels at, but also seems to bring out a higher level of performance in him. Having the ability to be out there on every shift with Ivan Provorov and the rest of the impressionable Flyers has been beneficial for Matt Niskanen, and for the Philadelphia Flyers as a whole.
Mandatory Credit – © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Contributor for the Flyers division at Philly Sports Network, graduate of York College of Pennsylvania and a fan of all things hockey. Follow me on Twitter @ChadWalkerPSN