Here is everything you need to know about Ivan Provorov, the top-ranked Russian-born defenceman available in the 2015 NHL Draft, according to NHL Central Scouting.
Age on June 26: 18
Birthplace: Yaroslavl, Russia
Current team: Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL
Weight: 201 pounds
NHL Central Scouting rank (North American): 7th
Marek’s Take: Does just about everything on the blueline for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Real smart, strong skater and able to both pass and wheel the puck out of trouble in his own end. Plays with an extension on his stick, which is hard to master but gives him more range poking pucks and an extra kick on his passes. His upside is huge. He may end up being the steal of the draft depending on where he goes. Comparable: Roman Josi
His draft stock is on the way up…
When NHL Central Scouting put out its mid-term rankings, Provorov was the No. 10 prospect among North American skaters, but he moved up three spots on the final list. Before the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery, Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal wrote Provorov would be a target for the defence-hungry team.
They like Provorov maybe as much as Hanifin, who had a fairly iffy Frozen Four tournament game on the weekend as Boston College was ousted by the University of Denver. Different body type, both just turned 18. Hanifin stands six-foot-four.
When Central Scouting released its preliminary 2015 rankings in September, Provorov was rated as a ‘B’ prospect, indicating a second- or third-round player. Now, we’re looking at a guy who will surely crack the top 10 and possibly even go in the top five at the NHL draft.
He moved to North America when he was 14…
Provorov was born in Yaroslavl, but moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to play bantam hockey in Grade 9.
“Getting to Wilkes-Barre was a weird story. A friend of a friend of my dad who was a coach there. He was from Russia,” Provorov told Matheson. “My mom was a little sad I was leaving, of course, when their child leaves at 13 or 14 then, but it was my dad’s idea if I wanted to move forward.”
Provorov scored 28 goals and 61 points in 27 games with the Wilkes-Barre Knights bantam team in 2011-12 and scored another 97 points in 51 games as a midget a year later. In 2013-14, Provorov joined the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Rough Riders and at the end of the season he was picked 30th overall in the CHL Import Draft by the Brandon Wheat Kings. This season, he scored an impressive 61 points in 60 games with the Wheat Kings and added another 13 points in 19 playoff games.
“Ivan did not speak any English when he first came to the U.S., so I was his translator for some time,” Alex Vasko, an assistant coach on the Wilkes-Barre bantam team, told NHL.com. “But he picked up the language very quickly from school, his teammates and his hosting family. Now he speaks English better than me.”
He can bring the offence…
As his offensive totals attest, Provorov is a very smooth player with the puck, whether it’s making a strong first pass out of the zone or simply doing it all himself, like he did on this goal.
Provorov scored eight of his 15 goals with the man advantage this season, so he was a big part of Brandon’s No. 2-ranked power play. He was also the highest-scoring rookie in the WHL, an impressive accomplishment for a defenceman.
And just in case the video highlight above didn’t sell you on his offensive game, check out this nifty between-the-legs move he made earlier this season.
…but he’s no slouch in the defensive end
“I don’t know why guys keep trying to go down his side. Waste of time. His gap-control is exceptional,” one scout told Matheson earlier this season.
Added Central Scouting’s John Williams: “He has good hockey IQ and takes advantage when he sees an opening both offensively and defensively. He will play a physical game and can separate the man from the puck.”
As we’ve already mentioned, what you’ll immediately notice about Provorov’s game is his shot and passing abilities. As Russian players tend to be, Provorov is very skilled on offence and will make plays that grab your attention.
But when he talks about wanting to play in North America because of the smaller ice and more physical game, it’s clear Provorov has an appreciation for the more subtle responsibilities in the defensive end. As a player who turned just 18 in January, Provorov handled a great deal for the Wheat Kings all season, from power play and penalty kill duties to top-pair minutes at even strength – and he exceeded his coach’s expectations this season.
“We had very good reports on him and we were hopeful he was going to be a good player,” Wheat Kings coach Kelly McCrimmon told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun. “To say that I could have expected that he was going to do what he has done, no, we wouldn’t have anticipated that for a young player.
“He’s fiercely proud of playing good defence and was the highest-scoring rookie in the league. For much of the season, he was the top-scoring defenceman before he was injured in February.”
He impressed scouts at the world juniors…
Noah Hanifin is the top-ranked blueline prospect heading into this draft, but his showing at the WJC was disappointing to scouts. However, the talent evaluators really liked what they saw from Provorov in Russia’s silver medal effort, even though he only logged one assist in seven games.
“He played in all situations and for a ’97 birthday that’s doing a lot here,” one scout told Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce. “When he comes back to this tournament next year, he’ll be the lead guy on the blueline if not for the whole team. He reminds me of the Orlov kid the Russians had [at the WJC] in Buffalo a few years back.”
His favourite team is the Detroit Red Wings…
In an interview with Yahoo!’s Kelly Friesen, Provorov said his favourite team was the Wings, because of countryman Pavel Datsyuk and his favourite player, Nicklas Lidstrom. There’s no better player for a defenceman to try and emulate. But unless the Red Wings make a surprise move and trade way up in the draft, Provorov is unlikely to end up with them. Detroit is slotted to pick 19th overall in late June.