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