By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Let’s make one thing clear — it's too early to pronounce Ivan Provorov as a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
That being said, it does need to be understood that Provorov was one of the top NHL defensemen during the 2019-20 season. The statistics show this.
For those who appreciate the fact that a player’s quality can’t be defined solely by numbers, his performance on the ice backs this up as well. He’s not the absolutely indisputable best defensemen in the league, but he certainly didn’t deserve to be omitted from the NHL’s list of the top 20 defensemen for the 2019-20 season. So why was he left out?
Looking purely at data and statistics, there is a substantial argument for Provorov’s inclusion. Amongst all NHL defensemen, Provorov ranked first in power play goals (7), eighth in minutes per game (24:51), tied for ninth in total goals (13), 19th in shorthanded minutes (189:30), tied for 25th in total points (36), and 29th in blocked shots (111). Only eight defensemen have scored more goals than Provorov over the past three seasons, putting the Russian native in elite company with players like Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Josi, Zach Werenski and Dougie Hamilton.
Provorov has also proven himself to be a player that comes in clutch when the Flyers need him to—most notably with his double overtime goal that forced a game 7 in the Flyers’ playoff series against the New York Islanders. What’s more impressive, however, is Provorov’s work rate and dedication to his game.
"Well, he’s a machine; obviously everybody knows that," Jake Voracek said following Game 6 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in September. "I saw him after the game and you couldn’t tell that he just played double overtime. He’s a big part of our team, he’s playing as a no. 1 defenseman."
Provorov finished tied for 17th in 2019-20 James Norris Memorial Trophy voting. He was voted as a top 20 defenseman by NHL fans this season. Arizona Coyotes' head coach Rick Tocchet called him “one of the best young defensemen in the league.” Teammate Justin Braun may have best echoed the sentiments of Flyers fans.
"He can be a game-changer," Braun said. "When he winds it up, his vision, his strength, he can do it all, defends really well, he’s in phenomenal shape. He’s a young guy, but he’s got it figured out already. He’s going to have a long career just because he’s figured it out so young, what he needs to do to be great."
Even Flyers captain Claude Giroux got in on the comments on social media, throwing some shade at the NHL's list.
While the NHL’s Provorov-less rankings are more fun, lighthearted offseason content than a serious, definitive ranking, it is unfortunately another entry on the ever-expanding list of Flyers players not being recognized by the league for outstanding performances. However, what we know is that Provorov is the first-choice defenseman for a team that is now a force to be reckoned with in the league, and he will continue to be just that for the foreseeable future. He’s a critical part of the Flyers’ efforts to make sure they have a deeper playoff run next season, perhaps toward a Stanley Cup Final appearance, at a time when there is an immense amount of talent in the team to capitalize on.
There's no reason to lose sleep over his name not featuring on this list. It could be soon enough that it's engraved on the Stanley Cup instead.