At the time of the NHL pause, Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov was well on his way to capturing the second Barry Ashbee Trophy of his four-year NHL career, and his first since his rookie season of 2016-17. At age 23, Provorov appears to be on the brink of breaking through into the elite echelon of NHL defensemen.
Provorov is fanatical about conditioning. As such, he readily absorbs the heaviest ice-time burden of any player on the Flyers across all game situations. His between-shift recovery times are among the fastest in the entire NHL. There are also times where Provorov seems almost impervious to pain. It's not that he doesn't get banged up but he is stoic and extraordinarily tough mentally.
The key to understanding Provorov's value to the Flyers is his completeness as a hockey player. There are better pure offensive defensemen and faster skaters forwards and/or backwards. There may be a couple of NHL players who are comparably strong, pound-for-pound, or have similar shift-in and shift-out stamina. There may be more physical players or slightly better man-to-man shutdown defenders.
Where Provorov has very few peers is in being above-average to significantly above average in most every key area of the game. There are no outright weaknesses, as more than one NHL pro scout has stated.
There are some areas where he has room for further improvement -- such as reducing his giveaways and creating power play entries -- but he is good to excellent in most aspects. Add to his physical skills a very advanced level of innate hockey sense, a quick learning curve and being a self-motivated and team-oriented athlete and you get a player who is very hard to find.
Provorov had a down season by his standards in 2018-19. He did not display nearly the same type of consistency and progressive improvement he'd shown across his first two NHL season. This season, he has gotten right back on the course he'd previously set. Paired with veteran Matt Niskanen, who is capable of thinking the game at a high level in his own right, Provorov has been both resilient and clutch.
The 2019-20 season has seen him grow into a regular role on the top power play unit -- where he unseated Shayne Gostisbehere as the defenseman atop the power play umbrella on Unit 1. Additionally, on both the penalty kill and in terms of the work load he handles at five-on-five, Provorov has rattled off one strong game after another. It's not that he never has a bad shift or an occasional below-average game, but he's bounced back quickly when they happen.
It's not all about statistics. Offensively, Provorov has chipped in 13 goals and 36 points in 69 games; four goals and five points behind his career highs set in 2017-18. Nevertheless, he is a better and more assertive player with the puck -- and has deeper talent around him -- as he's gained experience. The same is true on the defensive side of the puck.
Provorov signed a long-term contract at the start of training camp this past September. He is locked in through the 2024-25 season on a deal that pays an average annual value of $6.75 million per season. For a bonafide No. 1 defenseman in the NHL, that is a very reasonable cap hit by today's standards.
FIVE KEY FACTS
1) Provorov has yet to miss a game in the NHL. He has dressed in all 315 regular season and all six Stanley Cup playoff games for which he's been eligible to play. In 2018, he played through a Grade 3 AC separation - an injury in which the collarbone separates from the shoulder blade - in order to dress for Game 6 of the Flyers' first-round series against Pittsburgh.
2) Provorov has led the Flyers in overall ice time in each and every one of his four NHL seasons to date. In 2019-20, he has averaged 24:51 of total ice time: 19:03 of even strength ice time, 3:03 on the power play, and 2:45 shorthanded per game. He also leads the team with an average 29.3 shifts per game.
3) Provorov has contributed seven power play goals and 16 power play points this season; career highs to date.
4) In his fourth NHL season, Provorov has a +11 traditional plus-minus rating. In terms of underlying metrics, despite starting just 42.4 percent of his 5-on-5 shifts in the offensive zone (the lowest percentage of offensive zone starts among the nine defensemen who have played at least one game for the Flyers this season), he has an on-ice 51.7 percent Corsi and 51.6 percent Fenwick (D partner Niskanen leads the blueline at 52.0 percent Corsi and 52.4 percent Fenwick). With Provorov on the ice, the Flyers have a 51.92 percent ratio of expected goals; the highest among all players on the team.
5) Although Robert Hägg leads the team in blocked shots per 60 minutes of ice time, it is Provorov who leads the Flyers in cumulative blocked shots (111 total to Hägg's 79).
Video: PHI@MTL: Provorov scores beautiful goal for OT winner
1) Nov. 30 @ MTL (0:31, OT): One of the most spectacular and dramatic goals scored by any Flyer this season: Provorov went to end-to-end, pulling the puck between legs and around a defender, and scored to pull out a 4-3 victory. The win capped the Flyers' NHL-best performance in the month of November. Beyond his highlight reel goal that ended the game, Provorov played an excellent all-around game with the team playing for the third time in four days and the 16th time in 30 days. He pulled down 27:41 of ice time, was credited with three hits, came up with a vital blocked shot in the D-zone and was +2 on the afternoon.
Video: OTT@PHI: Provorov buries a dart on the rush
2) Dec. 7 vs OTT (3:17, 3rd period): Provorov has done an excellent job all season at picking his spots to jump into the rush at opportune times. On this play, he took advantage of a transitional play with tired Ottawa Senators players on the ice and four Sens flushed to the opposite side of the size. Seeing a huge seam, Provorov took a pass from Joel Farabee, skated into the left circle and wired home a wrist shot to the long side. The goal gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead on the way to a 4-3 victory.
Video: PHI@WSH: Provorov blasts puck home to extend lead
3) March 4 @ WSH (6:36, 3rd period): Provorov was a tower of strength as the Flyers earned a 5-2 road win in a statement game in Washington. Apart from skating 30 shifts and 26:16 of ice time (two blocks, two hits, +1 at even strength), Provorov opened a 4-2 lead with this third period tally. On the play, Jakub Voracek carried the puck into the offensive zone and fed across the ice to
a trailing Provorov at the left point. Seeing an open lane down the hash marks, Provorov skated in and sniped a shot past Braden Holtby.
THEY SAID IT
"What can I say about Provy? He's a [bleeping] beast."
-- Jakub Voracek, Jan. 8, 2020.
"He puts time in his craft, and it shows...You appreciate his game a lot more when you're here, He puts the work in to make sure he's doing everything the right way in the summers. He has a coach for pretty much everything you can think of - a running coach, a biking coach, a swimming coach, a skating coach."
-- Kevin Hayes, Feb. 6, 2020.
HE SAID IT
"Honestly, I don't look at stats. This is a team sport. But I do take pride in [the games played streak]. I want to help the team win. You can only really do that when you're playing."
-- Ivan Provorov, Feb. 28, 2020.