Provorov gun­ning for ros­ter spot

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Rob Par­ent rpar­ent@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Reluc­tan­tSE on Twit­ter

VOORHEES, N.J. >> The ac­co­lades about Ivan Provorov have been pour­ing in from near and far since be­fore the Fly­ers made the Rus­sian teen who speaks English flu­ently their first-round draft pick in 2015.

Now it seems a sure bet Fly­ers fans will get a pro­longed look at their next young de­fense­man who skates so flu­idly sooner than even some of the ad­mir­ing ex­perts might have guessed. While noth­ing is set in stone, it is be­gin­ning to sound a lot like Provorov is a pre­sump­tion to make the big club out of camp.

While he’s only 19, part of what might be work­ing for him in that re­spect is his age.

He’s too young to be sent down to the AHL’s Le­high Val­ley Phan­toms. And as he showed in lead­ing the Bran­don Wheat Kings to the WHL championship last sea­son, he’s es­sen­tially too far along in skills and poise to go back to his cham­pion ju­nior team.

Al­though he has a gen­eral man­ager in Ron Hex­tall who is as cau­tious as an ex­ec­u­tive as he was loose and loony as a player, Provorov ap­pears a lock to be one of

the Fly­ers’ top six de­fend­ers en­ter­ing the sea­son.

He has other things work­ing for him in that ef­fort. Ba­si­cally, all of Hex­tall’s play­ers seem to think the kid be­longs with them.

“From what I heard and what I’ve seen, he’s been play­ing great in camp,” said Mark Streit, who paired up with Provorov the past two days at prac­tice and will be paired with him again Thurs­day night, when the Fly­ers take on the Rangers at Madi­son Square Gar­den in a pre­sea­son game. “I’m ex­cited for to­mor­row to play with him. He plays like he has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Provorov re­put­edly has the skills to work a power play, can add a dan­ger­ous shot from the point or in tight, is skilled in the art of tran­si­tion play and can also add a phys­i­cal edge de­fen­sively.

But it’s what’s in his head that makes him stand out as a rare de­fense­man seem­ingly ready for the NHL while still a teen.

“He’s a tremen­dous player,” said Shayne Gostis­be­here, who as a 22-yearold came up from the Phan­toms last Nov. 14 to re­place the in­jured Streit and never left.

It was Gostis­be­here’s hand­i­work on the power play and bolt of blue line en­ergy that was a pri­mary fac­tor in the Fly­ers’ de­layed race to the Stan­ley Cup play­offs. Maybe now they can dou­ble down on that en­ergy with Provorov play­ing a heady role.

“I’ve only seen him for a cou­ple of games here, but the poise of his game and the ma­tu­rity of his game is sec­ond to none,” Gostis­be­here said. “You wouldn’t think he’s a 19-year-old out there.”

Provorov’s ap­par­ent NHL ap­point­ment has skewed the num­bers sit­u­a­tion for the Fly­ers a bit. With both Streit and Michael Del Zotto re­turn­ing healthy, Provorov’s ad­di­tion means they have a solid start­ing corps of eight. That would seem to leave one man out, even if coach Dave Hak­stol pro­fessed Wed­nes­day that it’s pos­si­ble he’d start the sea­son with all eight in tow.

Based mostly on his $5 mil­lion per year cap hit, An­drew MacDon­ald was an odd man out a year ago, de­moted to the Phan­toms at the start of the sea­son. But with the cap not as much of an is­sue this year and de­spite the happy num­bers “prob­lem” on the blue line, it doesn’t ap­pear MacDon­ald is likely to go down any­time soon.

“He’s had an ex­cel­lent camp,” Hak­stol said of MacDon­ald. “We’ve had him with dif­fer­ent play­ers. He’s done a good job whether it’s the left side or on the right side. He’s been a very steady player out there.”

“I’m in a really good frame of mind this year,” MacDon­ald said. “I’m feel­ing con­fi­dent. I had a really good sum­mer and I wanted to have a really good camp this year and just be pre­pared and I felt like I’ve done that.”

Now MacDon­ald would like to be a guy to play along­side the new kid, too.

“He really does have a great skill set and mind­set,” MacDon­ald said. “Very pro­fes­sional on and off the ice, and very pre­pared and I think that shows in his game. He skates real well, he’s got great poise with the puck and he’s got a good long­stick he uses very well, and plays phys­i­cal when he has to. He just seems to read the game very well.

“There’s no ques­tion there will def­i­nitely be some learn­ing along the way for him. But he’s very pre­pared. I don’t think any­body is go­ing to think they have to bring him along or any­thing. His play has spo­ken for it­self.”

With all that pos­i­tive en­ergy around him, Provorov seems savvy enough to not let it get to him. He seems care­ful to stay in line and watch ev­ery line that leaves his lips. Con­fi­dent kids can be cau­tious, too, if they think it’s the right thing to do. But you get the idea this player could have a lot to say about how far the Fly­ers can go... even this sea­son.

“The guys are great. They help me a lot, just in try­ing to get a lit­tle com­fort­able around here,” Provorov said. “I came into camp ex­pect­ing that it’s go­ing to be a hard camp. Lots of guys are go­ing to be com­pet­ing for a spot. But for me I try to fo­cus on my­self and play my game and I thought if I did that, I’d be fine.”

“From what I heard and what I’ve seen, he’s been play­ing great in camp. I’m ex­cited for to­mor­row to play with him. He plays like he has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence.” — Fly­ers’ Mark Streit on Ivan Provorov

NOTES >> Sam Morin and for­wards Tay­lor Leier and Colin McDon­ald all re­turned to the Phan­toms Wed­nes­day . ... With Bray­den Schenn’s three­game sus­pen­sion to start the sea­son, it would ap­pear pos­si­ble that ju­nior Travis Konecny could start the sea­son with the big club. The Fly­ers would have nine reg­u­lar sea­son games un­til he’d have to be re­turned to ju­niors or stay with the team all sea­son. Also still on the big league ros­ter is Jor­dan Weal, who was ex­pected to be with the Phan­toms this sea­son but has had a good camp . ... Scott Laughton, also fight­ing for a Fly­ers ros­ter spot, was ap­par­ently in­jured when he “lost an edge,” and fell dur­ing prac­tice, Hak­stol said. His sta­tus was un­cer­tain.

DERIK HAMIL­TON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Philadel­phia Fly­ers de­fense­man Ivan Provorov skates with the puck dur­ing a pre­sea­son game against the Bos­ton Bru­ins last Satur­day.

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