Ready to Play, Provorov Emerging as Leader, ‘Stud’ for Flyers
For most players, the pause meant a long time away from even stepping on the ice. Ivan Provorov was one of the exceptions.
Provorov was able to find an ice surface while spending the quarantine with his billet family near Wilkes-Barre. So it should be no surprise, after just two weeks of training camp, that Provorov jumped right back into his usual role in the Flyers 3-2 overtime win in an exhibition against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Provorov played 25:39 in the game.
“Not going to lie, I felt pretty good out there,” Provorov said on Wednesday. “I think the tempo is great. I think our team did a great job playing fast and play our game from the puck drop. I think we just played the same way we played in March.”
Now in his fourth season in the NHL, the 23-year-old defenseman is emerging as a top defenseman in the league. Even though he didn’t make a recent Top 20 list of defensemen in the playoffs, Provorov isn’t paying much attention.
“I’ve seen the list. To be honest, it’s their opinion. It is what it is. It doesn’t really bother me. I don’t play the game of hockey to make some sort of list,” Provorov said. “I play the game because I love it and I want to win. I love spending time with my teammates, on and off the ice. That’s the reason I’m playing the game of hockey. I want to get better. I try to get better with every practice, every game and every season. If someone didn’t put me on a list, it doesn’t bother me at all.”
If you ask his defensive partner Matt Niskanen, a 33-year-old veteran now in his 14th season in the NHL, he doesn’t agree with the assessment.
“The kid’s a stud,” Niskanen said. “I thought he was really good. Hopefully he keeps getting better the way he has all year. The old fart next to him will try to keep up.”
Provorov is taking on a bit of the same role Niskanen has this season for the crop of young defensemen on the Flyers roster. Egor Zamula, a 20-year-old prospect on the roster, suited up for an NHL game for the first time on Tuesday. The fellow Russian expressed his admiration for Provorov, and showed some signs that he has the poise to grow into a top defenseman himself. Provorov noted that he could see that potential.
“I look up to Ivan,” Zamula said through a translator on Wednesday. “I am fortunate to have him on the same team and helping me out with the game. Yesterday in the game, Ivan helped me a lot, talking to me before the game.”
“He’s a great player, great kid. He wants to learn,” Provorov said. “I just told him to be himself and don’t think too much. Just play your game and enjoy every shift. Try to learn every shift. I think he’s done a great job so far during camp. He’s getting better. I think he’s a great player and only going to get better and better.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Provorov was the new kid on the block, the teenager trying to make the roster. Now he can be the mentor that a lot of young defensemen look up to and try to emulate. He is definitely a leader by example.
“Provy is a very mature player. He’s got a ton of experience for his age now,” Niskanen said. “Just the translation piece is huge for Z, I would imagine. He’s got a great role model in Provy. A good pro already and a very high end defenseman in this league already. That’s a great situation for Z.”
With Provorov signed for the next five seasons beyond the 2019-20 playoffs, he will be a leader on the Flyers blue line for years to come and the Flyers already know they are in good hands with him leading the way with his warrior mentality and insane work ethic and desire.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.