Three days ago, the NHL Network released a top-20 defenseman list. The list sent Philadelphia Flyers fans into a fit since no one from the team was there. Notably, Ivan Provorov is a defenseman that a lot of people felt should be on that top-20 list. That fell on deaf ears. Was the NHL correct to not include Provorov?
If you are a Philadelphia Flyers fan, you’re likely going to hold Ivan Provorov with more value than the league does. The Philadelphia market considers Provorov a top-15 defenseman. That is a bias. It’s a bias that views Provorov as better than what he truly is in the big picture. He is a great defenseman, but he’s swimming in an ocean with fish that are either as skilled, or more skilled as he is.
Draft Class Competition
In 2015, the Philadelphia Flyers drafted Ivan Provorov seventh overall in a deep draft. Zach Werenski, who was selected the pick after Provorov, has performed better in fewer games. Already, you have to ask yourself, “would I place Werenski as a top-20 defenseman?” If the answer is yes, then how far behind is Provorov? If the answer is no, then Provorov isn’t a top twenty defenseman.
That is just one way of validating who a top-20 defenseman is. Zach Werenski is a good measuring point (he placed 12th on that list, deservingly so.) Last season, Ivan Provorov finished seventeenth in James Norris Memorial Trophy voting. When comparing the 2019-2020 season for Provorov with everyone on the NHL Network top-20 defenseman list, it’s evident that he belongs. The bias that the Philadelphia fans suggest is more valid than you may think.
Philadelphia May Be Right
Hockey writers believe that Ivan Provorov is a top-20 defenseman. That much is apparent because of the votes he received for the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Alongside those votes, Provorov finished 16th among defenseman for all-star votes. Among the names on the list, Provorov had a better 2019-2020 campaign than Kris Letang, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Morgan Rielly, and Drew Doughty. Provorov fits like a top-15 defenseman on the NHL Network’s list, so why was he left off?
Four of the five names that Ivan Provorov outperformed on the NHL Network top-20 defenseman list were in pairings where they did the heavy lifting. Part of why Provorov is left out is because Niskanen helped share that load. There is a little bit of truth to that, considering that Provorov improved significantly from 2018-2019 with Niskanen as his defensive partner in 2019-2020. Players like Kris Letang, Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Drew Doughty were the clear forces in their respective pairings. Another topic of conversation is that if Niskanen were still in the NHL, would the NHL Network list him over Provorov?
The storyline for Ivan Provorov to make the NHL Network top-20 defenseman list in 2020-2021 weighs heavily on how he performs without Niskanen. In the upcoming season, Shayne Gostisbehere or Philippe Myers are likely the favorites to be on the first line with Provorov. If he can have another season like 2020-2021 with one of those two in his pairing, then no one can deny Provorov. One glaring aspect of Provorov’s game that needs to be improved is turnovers. The moment he gets that under control is the moment the Philadelphia Flyers truly have an elite defenseman.
Coming off of his 2020-2021 body of work, Ivan Provorov is a top-17 defenseman. Where he finished in the James Norris Memorial Trophy voting is fairly accurate for his overall defensive ranking. Lists like the one published by the NHL Network were curated to create conversation. Provorov fits in with the top-20 defensemen in the NHL.
Mandatory Credit – Alex McIntyre