ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida on June 26-27. Ivan Provorov is the No. 7-ranked North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings. The Avalanche has the 10th overall selection at the draft.
Determination is what fueled Ivan Provorov to fly halfway around the globe in order to achieve his goal of making it to the NHL one day, and that day is getting closer. The No. 7-rated North American skater, according to NHL Central Scouting, is one of the most promising defenseman entering the 2015 draft.
Born in Yaroslavl, Russia, Provorov grew up playing the game he loved in his homeland, but he wanted to better his chances of playing in the NHL by getting more familiar with the North American style of play at an early age. At 14, he traveled overseas to join the Wilkes-Barre Knights (Pa.) in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League. He might have been outside of his comfort zone culturally, but that didn’t matter when he got on the ice.
"We had to point to the ice and basically tell him to get out there; he spoke no English," Wilkes-Barre hockey director and coach Tom Kowal said to NHL.com. "This is a kid who doesn't even need to speak English to understand what is going on."
When comparing the U.S. style of play to Russia, Provorov noticed the disparities instantly.
"The biggest difference I found right away is that the game is much faster than in Russia," Provorov said to NHL.com. "It's more physical and you have to make decisions quickly; you can't take a second of a shift off here. But I like the physical game."
Provorov was on a mission when he came to the United States. He was determined to make it to the NHL, and he set out to do whatever it took.
“He made me go above and beyond as a coach because he wanted to be a great hockey player," Kowal said. "I was excited going to work knowing I'd work with Ivan because he appreciated your help, but more importantly wanted to get better every day."
Success outside his home country didn’t take long for Provorov, as the Knights went on to win the U.S. under-16 national championship behind his 42 goals and 55 assists in just 51 games.
The young Russian entered the 2013 United States Hockey League Futures Draft and was selected fifth overall by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. He collected six goals and 13 assists in 56 games as one of the youngest players in the league the following season.
"It was an awesome first year for me in the USHL," Provorov said. "I got a lot of ice time so I got used to the fast game and good defense in the USHL. That's why I came to North America four years ago; to learn the game and the ice and make an NHL team."
A year later, Provorov was taken 30th overall by the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League in the 2014 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. Just like it was in the USHL, success in the WHL was instantaneous. He looked like a veteran out on the ice. The native of Russia garnered 15 goals and 46 assists, finishing fourth among all league defensemen in points at the close of his first major-junior regular season.
"His coach in Cedar Rapids [Mark Carlson] spoke very highly of him, and felt that at 16 he was the best defenseman on their team and one of their best players, so that's a pretty high compliment for a player of that age at that level," Wheat Kings general manager and coach Kelly McCrimmon said to NHL.com. "His skating was the one area that immediately jumped out at us."
The 6-foot, 201-pound defenseman’s solid play continued in the playoffs. He tallied 13 more points (two goals and 11 assists) in 19 games as the Wheat Kings advanced all the way to the WHL Championship Series before falling to the Kelowna Rockets.
"What's interesting for me with Ivan is as offensively gifted as he is, it's his attention to detail and his motivation to be such a good player in all three zones that makes him special," said McCrimmon. "I think the best part of his game is breaking the puck out and leading a forecheck. He's been a tremendous player."
Provorov was paired on defense during this past season with Ryan Pilon, who is ranked No. 24 by NHL Central Scouting on its North American list for the upcoming draft. Provorov and Pilon comprised one of the top defensive lines in the WHL as they both finished with a plus-36 rating in the regular season.
"He's brought a tremendous ability in all aspects," Pilon said to NHL.com. "He's a great skater and really helps me out on the back end.
“He can take the body and score some highlight-reel goals."
Now 18 years old, Provorov has gotten to where he is today because of his desire to improve and his drive to win. For a team looking to enhance its defense, Provorov could be the perfect pick.