|Ivan Provorov chats with the NHL's Director of Central Scouting, Dan Marr, at the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo
After a season that saw them fall to the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL final, Ryan Pilon and Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings were able to find a way to meet up at the NHL Combine,
even if they needed a bit of luck.
Pilon’s roommate in Buffalo was 35th ranked North American skater Dennis Yan, a forward born in Portland, Oregon. Yan’s family had moved to Russia early in his childhood, but returned to North America to aide in Yan’s development on the ice.
And guess who was in Pilon and Yan’s room on the Monday of Combine week? Yaroslavl’s own, Provorov.
“Ivan was in there a lot talking Russian with him and what not,” Pilon laughed. “I showed up late Sunday night around 12:30 or 1 o'clock, walk into my room, and Dennis was already sleeping.
He's a very nice guy. We kind of hit it off that next day.”
But that didn’t mean Pilon and Provorov didn’t try to meet up throughout the week as well. Having a familiar face among the 117 prospects inside the HarborCenter was welcome.
“It's been great, another face, another body to talk to," Pilon said. "We spent obviously a lot of time during the season, got to know each other very well, we get along very well. We kind of set a time if we're going to go to meals together and whatnot. We both had quite a bit of interviews. You're on your own for a lot of it, going to interview room to interview room. You have that quick break to
grab a quick bite and you're right back into it.”
Not that the two didn’t see enough of each other while patrolling the blue line in Brandon. Provorov and Pilon lived in the same billet house, and occupied the top two spots in terms of defensive
scoring on a Wheat Kings squad that finished the regular season 53-11-4.
But the stats aren’t always what management teams ask about during interviews.
“How hard you work during the summer, describe your game, tell something about your family,” said Provorov, when asked about questions he faced after a 61-point season with the Wheat Kings. “I've worked 10/10. I work as hard as I can. I described my family, my mom, my dad, a younger brother and a younger sister. (My mom) went to school, she had all A's, did eight years of university. She's
a smart lady.”
It could be argued those smarts were passed on to Provorov, who idolizes former NHL defenceman Nick Lidstrom for his two-way style of play. Provorov is ranked seventh by NHL Central Scouting on their list of North American Skaters, the second highest defenceman behind Noah Hanifin. But the talk of being the best blue line prospect available? Provorov says that’s not up to him.
“Some people have different opinions. Every time I play, I play as hard as I can to help the team win,” he said. “I think I'm growing as a player day by day. I work on all areas of my game and
try to get better every day.”
While this past season was Provorov’s first with the Wheat Kings, that wasn’t the case for Pilon. He played 49 games in 2013-2014 with Brandon, before registering 52 points in 68 games with the
WHL finalists this year.
“We had a good run, unfortunately came up short to Kelowna,” he said. “It's a quick adjustment getting from game shape to gym shape, so I thought coming to this you just want to do your
best, and just show the teams what you have to offer.”
Pilon has a lot to offer. The nephew of former NHLer Rich Pilon, won gold with Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, before picking up the silver at the Under-18 World Junior Championship in 2014.
“The thing that stands out for me is how well he manages the puck,” said NHL Central Scouting’s John Williams. “He's a very smart player who makes good puck decisions and has real good
Sitting 24th on Central Scouting’s North American Skater list, Pilon’s vision of being selected by an NHL team seems closer than ever. For now though, improvement is the focus of his offseason.
“You don't have much time off. It's straight back into the gym,” Pilon said. “My body feels good now, so hopefully going home and getting right back into the swing of things.”
— Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com