McKenzie: ‘I’m going to double down’ on Provorov

A step back on the ice this season has not impacted the long-term opinion of hockey’s No. 1 Insider on Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Bob McKenzie released his latest TSN Hockey Bobcast Thursday, and was asked about the 22-year-old rearguard by a listener.

“Can you think of a young defenseman in the last decade that has had such a drastic step back in his development as Ivan Provorov this season in Philadelphia. Based on his first two years of development, he seemed ready to compete for a Norris Trophy. Instead, he’s been playing the worst hockey of his career by both the eye test and the advanced metrics, and does not look like a first-pairing defenseman.

“Do you think this is simply a bad season that he will bounce back from, or true regression in his development that indicates his ceiling is much lower than expected at this time last year.

“Follow-up question: How do you think this affects his contract negotiation with the Flyers this summer.”

“This is a great question,” replied McKenzie. “And Bobby’s absolutely right. When Ivan Provorov was coming out of the Brandon Wheat Kings, I said, ‘This guy’s way too good for junior hockey. This guy has got to play in the National Hockey League, and he’s going to be a star, and he’s going to win Norris Trophies.’ I said all of that, and you know what? I’m going to double down on it right now and say nothing has changed for me.

“Even though, to Bobby’s point, he’s absolutely right on Provov’s season. Now, what did he have, 17 goals last season. 17! But I think that’s not the measure of what we should be expecting. I think the 17-goal season is something of an outlier, but nevertheless - Bobby’s point is well-taken.

“In each of his first two years in the National Hockey League, Provorov played all 82 games. The first year he had 6 goals and 30 points, -7. Second year 17 goals, 41 points, +17.

“So yeah, after last season everybody is like, ‘Wow.’ Restricted free agent at the end of this season. ‘Put him in the same category as Charlie McAvoy, Zach Werenski… as potential No. 1 defensemen in the NHL, potential Norris Trophy winners who are top-pairing guys and are going to be studs on their blueline for the next 10-15 years.’

“And then this year comes along and it’s 53 games played, 4 goals, 17 points, -16. And Provorov has had a lot of really, really rough nights. Now mind you, the Philadelphia Flyers have had a lot of really, really rough nights across the board. We mentioned Ron Hextall fired, Dave Hakstol fired; everything just upside down in Philly.
“I talked to a few pro scouts who said since the All-Star break actually, Provorov has actually started to play more like the Ivan Provorov that we’ve come to know and love.

“As for why his game went south this year, you never really know for sure. And hey, maybe I’m out to lunch. Maybe he’s not as good as we thought he’s going to be. But I don’t believe that, and I’ve talked to enough hockey people who share my view of it that he’s still a stud defenseman waiting to happen.

“It’s funny. Prospects in their draft year sometimes get the yips and for no apparent reason, really good players the bottom falls out of it for them. I think of Brandon Saad in his draft year in the OHL didn’t play very well and was projected at the beginning of the year to be a Top 10 pick, and then didn’t even go in the first round - went in the second round, but turned out to be a really good NHL player nevertheless.

“I would say the same thing about the draft year, I would say the same thing about contract years for some players. And I think when Ivan Provorov got 17 goals and 41 points last year, and he knew coming into this season it was going to be a big year for him because potentially he was eligible for that extension, that maybe he got the yips a little bit. When things started to go south for him and the team at the beginning of the season, that maybe he started to get down on himself.

“Ivan Provorov is probably not a guy that’s experienced a lot of real adversity in his life when it comes to his hockey career. And I think with the bottom falling out of things for the Philadelphia Flyers, and to some degree Provorov himself early this season, that there was probably a loss of confidence there.

“And he’s a guy - from people who tell me they know him really well, they say he’s really, really hard on himself. That his expectations of what he’s going to do - nobody has got higher expectations for Ivan Provorov than Provorov himself. And that the pressure he would apply to himself could become an onerous thing, especially after getting off to such a poor start.

“But I can’t believe - based on the player I saw play for the Brandon Wheat Kings in junior, based on what we saw of him in his first two years of his entry-level deal - that he’s not going to find a way to get back to what we thought he’s going to be.

“Now, as for impacting the contract? Absolutely it impacts the contract. If he was an absolute stud in his platform year and matched or exceeded the totals that he put up in his second season in the National Hockey League, then I could see the Philadelphia Flyers signing him to the long-term 5, 6, 7, 8-year deal at big, big, big money for defensemen in the National Hockey League. He would be that good.

“But now that he’s had a platform year that’s been absolutely forgettable, unless he really strings things together here the rest of the way - and as I said, I’ve talked to some pro scouts who believe he’s started to do that since the All-Star break - that it will impact his contract. So maybe he’s got to do the bridge deal. Maybe it’s not going to be for as much money as he thought it was going to be.

“And that’s fine too because the cream always rises to the top, and I would surmise and submit that Ivan Provorov is still going to be a top-pairing guy in the NHL, and a chance to really establish himself as that stud No. 1-pairing defenseman.”

Provorov is finishing up his entry-level contract, and can become a restricted free agent this summer.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly