After a fantastic 2019-20 season, Provorov was… fine.
Ivan Provorov has long been hailed as the crown jewel of Ron Hextall’s rebuild. A defensive prospect billed as the guy who could finally give the Philadelphia Flyers a long-sought replacement for Chris Pronger in the No. 1 defenseman spot, much of the hype for the team’s future rested on his shoulders as he progressed. After a trio of uneven seasons (a promising breakout in 2017-18, horrible regression in 2018-19, and return to form in 2019-20 alongside Matt Niskanen), many considered 2020-21 to be the year that Provorov would finally insert himself into the conversation surrounding the NHL’s best young defenders. Instead, the 24-year-old stagnated, playing like an okay second pair guy instead of showing out and cementing himself as a legit top-pair stud.
Was Provorov really to blame for his shortcomings this season, or were they just a product of inflated perceptions and poor support? That’s a difficult question to answer, but one thing is for certain: Ivan Provorov has legitimate concerns about his upside heading into the sixth season of his NHL career. Why is that? Let’s dive in.
By The Numbers
In terms of simple counting stats, Provorov saw clear scoring regression from a 2019-20 where he again produced above-average shooting from the blue line (13 goals). Compared to his results in 2020-21, it’s clear that No. 9 suffered after losing the defensive partner who helped him take a big step forward in the previous season. Matt Niskanen was apparently the guy who made that pair work, at least on paper. Weird.
Considering the minutes that Provorov played and his competition, his underlying numbers aren’t abysmal. Still, a provenNo. 1 defenseman could carry play against stiff opposition even if his partner isn’t helping out too much; when looking at these numbers, it’s clear that didn’t happen. What this tells us is two things: Provorov is a perfectly acceptable player without a good partner but not a transformative one, and we have reason to believe that adding Ryan Ellis to the mix in 2020-21 will help him regain form.
The thing that catches the eye here ought to be Provorov’s dismal primary scoring. In 2020-21, the big blue liner was heavily reliant on secondary assists for his points, a trend that indicates lackluster offensive creativity. That lines up with the eye test; Provorov’s well documented struggles walking the blue line with the puck once again hindered his productivity in the offensive zone, and without a partner to handle the playmaking (thus allowing him to function mostly as a shooter, a role he’s better suited for) his stats suffered.
Did they live up to our expectations?
Not really. Ivan Provorov is a guy who people thought could be a Norris dark horse entering the season. Instead, he was a middling NHL top pair player whose flaws were laid bare for everybody to see. We wouldn’t call that an ideal season.
What do we/can we expect next season?
A resurgence. Alongside one of the best RHD in the NHL in Ryan Ellis, Provorov should find his shine again and produce at a solid clip. Ellis was the backbone behind Roman Josi’s final transformation into a superstar offensive defender, so he’s capable of doing the same here barring injuries or the unforeseen.
How would you grade their 2020-21 season?
Provorov earns a B- from BSH. He was an acceptable player, but not the impactful presence we all expected. Hopefully better things are ahead.