Ivan Provorov Leaves a Mixed Legacy Behind Him with Flyers

Mar 5, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (9) pushes the pucks onto the ice before warmups against the Detroit Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov (9) pushes the pucks onto the ice before warmups against the Detroit Red Wings at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

It happened. Ivan Provorov’s time in Philadelphia has come to an end. He’s been traded to Columbus. In return, the Flyers will receive goalie Cal Petersen and defender Sean Walker from the Kings. Swedish defensive prospect Helge Grans is also included in the deal along with a few draft picks. That’s an interesting haul for a guy who has, in many ways, not lived up to his expectations.

The first time I saw Ivan Provorov play was on October 18, 2016. I live in eastern NC, so if I want to see my Flyers play, I have to see them against Carolina or on national tv. On this night, the Flyers were playing against the Chicago Blackhawks on NBC Sports. Provorov was a much-ballyhooed defender coming to play his first year. Then this happened:

Ok,  I can’t be too upset at Patrick Kane making a kid look silly on national tv. Provorov fell down which helped to set up Kane’s goal. Provorov finished the night with 21:15 min of ice time and a -5 during a 7-4 loss. It was just his third game in the NHL.

Provorov was drafted seventh overall, just like this year’s pick, in 2015. The scouting report on him read:

"“Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon, a fellow 2015 draft eligible defender, have spent the majority of the season on the top pairing for their team. When you factor in that the pairing is facing the top players on other WHL clubs and thriving against them, their efforts are pretty impressive. Of this dynamic duo, Pilon is more of a defensively-oriented defender, while Provorov is much more adept at jumping into the rush and creating chaos in the offensive zone for the other team.There’s a lot to like about Provorov. He’s a big-bodied Russian with strong skating. He’s creative in the offensive zone and responsible in his own end, though he may jump into the rush too often. It’s helpful for him that Pilon’s as good as he is inside his own blueline. The thing that may also excite scouts about Provorov is his enthusiasm for playing in North America. He’s played in North America for years, and the commitment it takes to come over to a new country as a young teenager speaks to his passion for the game and his desire to succeed.Provorov is a creative, resourceful player. He’s strong in all three zones and has excelled as a key player on a top team as a major-junior rookie. He’ll be a strong asset to any organization that selects him in June.”"

Now, I highlighted a portion of this for a reason. Pilon ended up being a fifth-round pick by the NY Islanders and has never seen any AHL or NHL action. Still, the quote, at least to me, suggested that Provorov is as good as he is in part because he had a good partner in Pilon. Pilon would hang back, doing the defensive thing, while Provorov would try to jumpstart the offense.

In 2015, the Flyers were looking for a young, dynamic defender and Provorov fit the bill. But there were distinct and glaring deficiencies that wouldn’t become apparent until later. In his first year, he was paired, often, with Mark Streit. Streit was a steady, reliable blueliner for three years in Philadelphia before being traded away for Valtteri Filppula and some draft picks to Tampa (who immediately flipped him to Pittsburgh).

Thus began a saga with Provorov. If he was paired up with someone good, he was good. If he was paired up with someone who could be a liability, his play suffered. Provorov did well when paired with Matt Niskanen. But when Niskanen retired, he struggled when he was expected to be the top defender. He was only as good as his linemates were.

His second year was his best when he put up 17 goals and 24 assists in 2017-18. After that, he steadily declined little by little, but not so much as to be noticeable. True, he only topped 10 goals one more time, 13 in 2019-20, but he was still playing around 24 minutes a game. But he never improved. He never got better.

There was so much promise in him that was never fulfilled. He was a decent defender, but never played to the potential of a seventh-overall pick. And right behind him, in the 2015 draft, was Zach Werenski, a player who has become one of the best defenders in the game. It’s most likely that Provorov will be paired up with him and the two could become an effective combo in CBJ. And yes, Provorov did win four Barry Ashbee Trophies as the team’s best defender, but it wasn’t like a lot of the guys, especially this year, did much to distinguish themselves either.

Provorov, during his exit interview, had kind of expressed that he didn’t want to be part of a rebuild. I’m not sure that Columbus will turn out better for them since they were in last place this year, but you never know. Maybe he needs a change of scenery. And if that is the case, I hope it works out well for him.

For us Flyers fans, we sit and wonder, yet again, about a player who came into the league with so much promise but never quite achieved it. It’s just another in a long string of disappointing draft picks joining Jay O’Brien, Nolan Patrick, and German Rubtsov as first-rounders from 2015 to 2018 (with Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee the exceptions) that really didn’t stick with the team. While he has never been awful, he’s only shown glimpses of being great. And unfortunately, that is the legacy he’ll leave in Philadelphia:……a player who was sometimes great, sometimes ok, and sometimes less than ok.