Gostisbehere, Provorov Get Attention in NHL Network’s Top 20 Defensemen List
To get through the dog days of summer without hockey, NHL Network has been looking ahead to the upcoming season by revealing their list of top players in the NHL right now. It is a four-part series that goes by position -- centers, defensemen, wingers and goalies.
The centers were revealed first on Aug. 5. Flyers forward Sean Couturier made the list as the No. 18 center in the NHL and was the only Flyer to make the list. Jake Voracek ranked 16th among the Top 20 wingers and Claude Giroux was a “new” entry to the wingers list, ranking seventh.
When the defensemen rankings were revealed on Aug. 12, the Flyers also had one representative. Shayne Gostisbehere ranked 17th on the list of Top 20 defensemen in the NHL. Ivan Provorov was named one of the five defensemen on the bubble.
Provorov is highly regarded as the team’s No. 1 defenseman with a better overall game, yet it was Gostisbehere receiving the accolades. This sparked a bit of a debate, showing just how much Flyers fans value Provorov.
Make no mistake about it both defensemen deserve to be close to the Top 20, if not in it at the same time.
Gostisbehere has established himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in hockey. His 65 points ranked fourth in the NHL last season and he’s certainly viewed as a dynamic defenseman and a power-play specialist.
The knock on Gostisbehere is his defensive play, which still has its holes even with improvement over the years.
That’s why Provorov is so highly valued. It was Provorov, not Gostisbehere, who led the Flyers in goals by a defenseman. Provorov’s defensive responsibility and awareness is quickly becoming among the best in the league and he plays a ton of minutes, averaging over 24 minutes per game and sometimes playing upwards of 30 minutes in a game.
So the fact that Provorov was left off the list was more glaring than anything. He plays the minutes of a top defenseman, he performs like a top defenseman, so he should be ranked as a top defenseman.
Perhaps the first reason Gostisbehere got a nod over Provorov is because of the offensive numbers. While Provorov broke out for 17 goals and 41 points in his sophomore season, he scored just six goals in his rookie season with 30 points. Those are still solid numbers, but they don’t come close to Gostisbehere’s production so far in his NHL career.
Gostisbehere has 37 goals and 150 points in three NHL seasons. His 37 goals already ranks in the Top 10 in Flyers history among defensemen, and his 150 points ranks 15th and has him in position to be just outside the Top 5 potentially by the end of the 2018-19 season.
That said, Provorov’s 23 goals and 71 points through two seasons is pretty impressive as well, showing that he has the ability to be heavily involved in the offense while remaining reliable in all three zones, especially defensively against the top players in the NHL.
Additionally, Provorov further won the hearts of Philadelphia in his response to the series-ending loss to the Penguins in this year’s playoffs. Overcome with emotion, Provorov spoke with his heart on his sleeve, admitting that he played through a shoulder injury but wasn’t going to sit out the game as long as his arm was attached.
The grit and leadership the 21-year-old showed at such a young age has already made him a fan favorite. His value to the organization will also be on full display sometime in the next year, when the Flyers have to re-sign to defenseman to what is sure to be a megadeal.
Regardless of how any list plays out, the value that both Provorov and Gostisbehere bring to the Flyers is regularly on display. Both defensemen are rising through the NHL ranks and have proven to be key parts of the Flyers success over the last two seasons and are a big piece to the future of the team moving forward. To see them regarded among the rest of the NHL’s best defensemen is just a further affirmation that the Flyers have developed two fine defensemen to be leaders of that future.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.