Many of the Philadelphia Flyers are under criticism due to the results of this season. This was a Flyers team projected to be fighting for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, but finished fourth worst in the NHL and worst in their division.
One player who received his share of criticism, and will look to prove those critics wrong, is Ivan Provorov.
Drafted 7th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Provorov was expected to be the next big thing on the blue-line. Drawing comparisons to Duncan Keith, he was supposed to help the Flyers establish an identity on defense they’ve lacked since losing Chris Pronger in 2011. Provorov was going to lead a struggling defense.
Provorov is a workhorse. He averages 24:13 minutes a night since arriving in Philadelphia in 2016, usually on the first pair. We’ve witnessed his brilliance and costly mistakes, taking the good with the bad.
Provorov is a good defenseman, but he hasn’t reached his potential. Most thought he would be a Norris Trophy candidate. He hasn’t established himself as the top defenseman on the Flyers.
Things can always change, however.
In 79 games, Provorov totaled 31pts (7G, 22A.) His plus-minus was the worst of his career, however his possession metrics were similar to Travis Sanheim. The three games that Provorov missed? He had to sit-out due to the league’s COVID protocol, ending his 403 consecutive game streak.
His average ice time of 24:53 led the Philadelphia Flyers. So did his 84 turnovers. The second closest, Sanheim, trailed by 29 turnovers.
To be fair, Provorov had an unstable defensive pairing all season.
Justin Braun paired for the majority of the season, until he went to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. He was a well-grounded defensive defenseman, but his style didn’t mesh with Provorov, who is more of a puck-moving, two-way defenseman.
Provorov was most confident when paired with Ryan Ellis, his expected partner. The original duo made sense. Both players have similar playing styles, gaining chemistry together.
Provorov is skilled with the puck, but he does too much at times, and it’s clear. It was highlighted while paired with Braun. He took to a high risk, high reward approach, without the reward.
“No matter what I say, you guys are going to give me your own grades. It doesn’t matter, you’re all experts in hockey, so you’re going to give me all your super experienced grades. I don’t think my opinion really matters to you guys.”Ivan Provorov; 4/30/2022
With Cam York, Yegor Zamula, and Ronnie Attard, he played a more relaxed game. The young defensemen benefit from playing with Provorov, especially York and Attard. Those two were improvements in a season without Ellis.
Provorov needs Ellis to produce top pair results. If Ellis is healthy, Provorov’s game is elevated. He hasn’t found his stride ever since Matt Niskanen retired ahead of 2020-2021.
Ellis’ health is a major factor. If he isn’t ready, a Provorov-York pair makes sense (if there isn’t a stable acquisition providing quality depth.)
Provorov is only 25, and his contract will expire after the 2024-2025 season, when he’s 28. A lot of younger defenseman in the Philadelphia Flyers’ locker room, including Zamula, come to him for advice.
“All those guys have tons of talent, tons of potential. It means a lot for me to be able to help them and show the way and be able to pass some knowledge that I’ve been able to learn and pick up through six years now of playing in the NHL.”Ivan Provorov; 4/30/2022
There is a lot of time for Provorov to make major strides, with or without Ellis, but 2022-2023 is a chance to silence the media and prove critics wrong.
(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)