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Flyers' Provorov confident he's ready for NHL pace

by Adam Kimelman

STONE HARBOR, N.J. -- Ivan Provorov believes he is ready to play in the NHL.

"I think I'm a complete player and I think I'll be able to adjust to the speed and physical play," Provorov said at Philadelphia Flyers development camp last week.

Provorov, 18, who the Flyers selected with the No. 7 pick at the 2015 NHL Draft, has proven in the past to be a quick learner.

Born in Yaroslavl, Russia, he moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., about two hours north of Philadelphia, in 2011 when he was 14. He knew little English and almost nothing of American culture, but he adjusted quickly in his two seasons with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League. In 2012-13, he led them to an under-16 national title.

The Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the United States Hockey League made Provorov the fifth pick of the 2013 USHL futures draft, and in 2013-14, he had 19 points in 56 games. Last season, he jumped to the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings, who had picked him 30th in the 2014 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

The WHL, with its hours-long bus trips through wintry Canadian prairie outposts, can be intimidating. But Provorov saw it as a challenge he was prepared to meet.

"It's the best junior league in the world," he said. "The schedule is so close to NHL, the travel is almost the same. I think it's just a really good league. And I think it was a pretty easy transition for me."

Provorov certainly made it look easy. His 61 points in 60 games were first among WHL rookies and fourth among defensemen, and he had 13 points in 19 WHL playoff games to help Brandon reach the WHL final.

Provorov also played for Russia at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. He had one assist and a plus-2 rating as the youngest player on a team that won the silver medal.

"That helped me a lot," he said. "To play with the best players on the Russian team and the best players in the world for that age group was a good learning experience."

Fellow Flyers prospect Radel Fazleev saw Provorov's adjustment firsthand. Fazleev plays for the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL and faced Provorov four times in the regular season and in Calgary's five-game WHL semifinal loss to Brandon.

"He's a pretty smart player," Fazleev said. "He's a good playmaker. I think he's good in the offensive zone, and at the same time he's good in the defensive zone. He's both ways a great player. It's hard to play against him, so it's nice to play with him on the same team."

At development camp in early July, Provorov joined a group of prospects that included four defensemen considered the best of the Flyers' future: Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim. Provorov still managed to stand out.

"He moves very well," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said. "Seems like he has a calmness over him. … He's coachable, he picks stuff up and he asks questions. What we want him to do he grasps fairly quick. I can see he has hockey knowledge. He looks to me like that hockey IQ is above average."

Provorov said he'll spend a few weeks this summer home in Russia visiting with friends and family while continuing his offseason training.

"I think I'm a complete player, so it's working on all aspects of my game and trying to get better in all aspects of my game," he said.

It'll take a lot of work for Provorov, who signed his three-year, entry-level contract July 3. The Flyers have seven defensemen on NHL contracts currently on the roster, plus the prospects he's battling, including two, Gostisbehere and Hagg, who already have professional hockey experience.

But it doesn't seem like any of that bothers Provorov, displaying the same kind of calmness off the ice as Samuelsson saw in him on it.

"I'll work hard this summer, and we'll see what happens," he said.


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