The New Jersey Devils do not need any defensemen; with youngsters Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, Eric Gelinas (hopefully) and Jon Merrill securing their spots in the lineup alongside Andy Greene, the Devils only have a hole or two to fill with either a free agent or another one of their many defensive prospects. Even with the lineup set, Ivan Provorov (finishing ranked 7th by the NHL) is an interesting, skilled player that could see the Devils deviate from their plan, especially if the forwards that are desired by New Jersey are gone by the time they make their selection.
Who is Ivan Provorov?
Born January 13th, 1997, Ivan Provorov initially came though Lokomotiv Yarolsavl's youth system in Russia. He would come over to North America and join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton youth team before moving on to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL. He spent the past season with the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings at an already almost NHL-size of 6'0" and 201 lbs. Elite Prospects as always brings us a nice look at the statistics he compiled while playing for those teams:
Provorov's 61 points in 60 games were good enough to have him ranked 4th among WHL defensemen in points according to CHL Stats. His 1.02 points per game also had him ranked as the 4th best defenseman in the league. His NHL point equivalency of 21 points had him ranked 2nd among all defenders, which is not a bad total for a 17/18 year old. He also contributed 13 points in 19 playoff games for Brandon this past season; should he not immediately make the NHL next season, the team that drafts him will expect him to improve upon those numbers.
What Others Have Said About Provorov
Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects had a lot of positive things to say about Ivan's game on both ends of the ice; he cited him as being offensively gifted, but also a complete defenseman:
An offensively gifted defenceman who can direct the game's pace when the puck is on his stick. Provorov is a quick and agile skater with an accurate release on his shot, which he can get off anywhere below the blue line; creates many chances on the power play and can even create offense during the penalty kill. Is an adroit and creative passer who knows how to use his teammates well. All-in-all, a complete defenceman who knows how goals are scored and executes accordingly.
Clever, skillful passing defensemen are a premium in the NHL; they allow teams to get out of their own end and to start plays that can lead to goals. I like that Curtis also mentions how Provorov can even create offense while on the penalty kill, yet is also complementary of his defensive acumen. His skating is also complemented and from this report, it seems like he plays a well-rounded game, which is a big positive for a player on the back end of the ice.
Bill Placzek of NHL Draft Site also sees a lot of upside to Provorov on both ends of the ice, but also feels that he could use some polish before truly being ready for the big league:
A strong elusive skating puck carrier who is also great with his stick as a defensive weapon. This improving six foot skates head up with confidence great knee bend and drive, holding that extra second and always aware of all his passing options. Attacks with shake and bake head and body moves and gets by defenders on the attack. Reaches quickly on defense. Still needs polish defensively but has upside that will most certainly have his name called.
I'd like to just how much polish Provorov needs; this scouting report doesn't say if he's simply one more season away, or if he needs more time than that. I do like how it reinforces a lot of the positives that were already spoken about on Elite Prospects; it also goes a bit more in-depth when discussing his skills. While skills are important, having character players in the locker room is important too and Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers discusses that in his scouting report:
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.
The passion to succeed at all costs is present within Provorov; just imagine, if he came over to North America just to better his game, what would he be willing to do to help his team win? Again he is praised for his strength in all three zones of the ice as well; it seems like any team needing a good mid/high pair defenseman need look no further than Ivan.
A Little Video
First up, we have a video showing Ivan scoring 2 goals against the Swift Current Broncos from this past October:
The first goal gives us a good look at Provorov's slap shot; it's powerful, and on target, which usually means good results. At about the 7 second mark, he does appear to get the benefit of a teammate screening the goalie, but that would be moot point if his shot wasn't on point. The second goal is a bit of a softy let in by Swift Current's goalie, but it does show Provorov's ability to jump into the play on offense and help his team create scoring chances and (at least in this case) a goal.
While those two goals looked good, I have to say I thought this next one looked even better:
All I can say is wow; four defenders in his way and Provorov goes around/between them all before beating Calgary's goalie top-shelf, blocker side. That play alone was more impressive than almost anything our forwards put on the ice all season last year. Maybe we should draft this kid and convert him to winger! (Only kidding!)
An Opinion of Sorts
I feel my opinion in this section might be a bit unfair to provide; I think he's a terrific player, but even if he is the best available at #6, the Devils have other needs that are more pressing. We need forwards no matter what, so if the plan is to simply draft Provorov and stand pat, then New Jersey hasn't really improved the team. This does present an interesting opportunity however; if the Devils value Provorov more than one (or more) of their young defenders already in the lineup, they could draft Ivan and trade the other player (possibly adding another piece) to bring in a young forward. I do think that the Devils are in an interesting position if Hanafin, Strome and Marner all go after McDavid and Eichel.
I like how complete his game is; the fact that he can be a game changer on offense is something that can't be overlooked. He's also pretty good at playing his position, so if the Devils did select him, we would not have to worry about him being another third-pair, sheltered minutes, power play specialist. As I said above, it would make one of our other defensive pieces expendable; as a left handed shot, that would mean either Merrill or Gelinas goes, as I can't see our only vet Andy Greene being traded.
Part of me thinks that New Jersey's first round choice is going to be largely determined by who the five teams ahead of them select; if the players that I listed are gone, then the Devils' choice gets to be a bit more clouded; if not, I think they choose whoever is left out of that grouping of three, even if it is Hanafin. If they select a defender, I think it means that someone else is getting shipped out for forward help; if not, then it makes no sense to select a defenseman, best player available or not.
Now I'd like to hear your thoughts on Provorov; if he is the "best player available" at number 6, should the Devils draft him in spite of their need for talented forwards? Should they trade back slightly with a team that wants Provorov if they feel the forward they want will still be there? What do you think of the skill set that he brings on the ice? Do we rip off Ed Jovanovski's "Jovo-Cop" nickname and start calling Ivan "Provo-Cop" now before everyone else does? Leave any and all comments below and as always, thank you for reading.