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Flyers prospect Ivan Provorov a complete player

Defenseman who does it all hopes to make Shayne Gostisbehere-like impact for Philadelphia this season

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers saw what adding a young defenseman to the lineup could do for them last season.

Could Ivan Provorov, the seventh pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, have the same kind of impact that Shayne Gostisbehere did last season?

"I think I've improved in all areas of my game," Provorov said during Flyers development camp. "I think I'm going to do everything I can to make the team in September."

Gostisbehere's addition to the lineup in November was a big reason the Flyers were able to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Provorov, 19, doesn't have the offensive flash of Gostisbehere, 23, who had a 15-game point streak last season and finished second in voting for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie. But Provorov's all-around game could be just as valuable to a defense that allowed 30.7 shots per game last season, eighth-most in the League.

"[Gostisbehere] is a great player, had a really great season, helped the Flyers a lot," Provorov said. "I think if you work hard, stay humble and try to get better every day, you'll be able to make the transition at any age."

There were some scouts who believed Provorov was NHL-ready last season, but the Flyers opted to send him back to Brandon of the Western Hockey League for further development. He responded with 73 points to lead WHL defensemen and his 21 goals were third. His plus-64 rating led the league and was the best by a WHL defenseman since 2008-09 when Paul Postma was a plus-67 and Brent Regner was a plus-65. He was named the top defenseman in the WHL and the Canadian Hockey League. Provorov's eight points in seven games keyed Russia to the silver medal at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"He's really smart, he reads the game. Really hard to play against him," said Flyers forward prospect Radel Fazleev, who has played against Provorov with Calgary of the WHL the past two seasons and with him at the WJC. "He's a really good defender, good skater. You have to make almost an unreal play to beat him. If you go 1-on-1, if you make a play when he's on you, it's good for you. Just super-hard to play against him."

Provorov's season went into May; he helped Brandon win the WHL championship and reach the Memorial Cup. Although Brandon didn't win, the Flyers believe getting that much playing time in high-intensity situations only helps him.

"Any time you go far into the playoffs I think you learn from it, juniors or anything," Flyers development coach Kjell Samuelsson said. "You benefit from it because wherever you end up playing, you want to play in May and so forth. You want that experience."

Video: Ivan Provorov makes a long pass leading to a goal

Will that experience help him jump to the NHL? All six defensemen who played in the Flyers' season-ending loss to the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round are signed for next season (Brandon Manning is a restricted free agent), and Michael Del Zotto, who last played Feb. 13 because of a wrist injury, will be healthy when the season starts. Three of the Flyers' top prospects besides Provorov also are defensemen -- Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg. Morin and Hagg played in the American Hockey League last season.

"We've got enough players on our roster to play for the Flyers this year," general manager Ron Hextall said. "Between the guys that we have signed and some of the guys at Lehigh Valley [AHL affiliate], we have enough players. We aren't sitting there going 'player X, player Y has to play in the NHL.' If one of the kids or two of the kids or three of the kids come in and they are better than the guys that we have, that's competition. Assuming that we think it's the right move at the time, we will make a roster spot for them. We have enough bodies, we have enough good players.

"We made the playoffs last year, so they have to come in and beat someone out. If a young kid makes us a better team than we will keep them. But if not, we will go with what we have."

That would mean another season in Brandon for Provorov, which the Flyers feel would help him even further.

"He'd be one of the top players in the league and he can benefit from that," Samuelsson said. "And he can pick up other things like leadership and be the man, be the best player in the league."

Provorov said he'd be fine with another season in junior hockey, but his goal is to come to training camp and show the Flyers that another young defenseman is ready to move into the NHL.

"My goal is to try to improve every day, day by day," he said. "I'm going to keep doing that. In September, I'm going to be even better than I am now."

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