The Case for Drafting Ivan Provorov

One of the things about this Making a Case series that we’ve
been running on TLN is that it’s been a great opportunity for the writers here
to sing the praises of players we’d love to see in the Blue and White. The thing
about Provorov is that I’m sure many of us are regarding him as the worst case
scenario of this bunch. While he’s certainly not my first choice, or second, or
third, or fourth of this group (Friday’s prospect deserves some more
consideration than he’s been getting), hopefully I can make enough of a case
that in the event he was drafted Toronto can avoid the hysteria we experienced
when Morgan Rielly was taken over Filip Forsberg or even better, make the case
that the Leafs should move mountains to acquire a second top ten pick.

Let’s start by looking where Provorov is sitting with some
of the most popular draft rankings, as well as the MyNHLDraft.com
consensus score and my own personal ranking. (Note: Corey Pronman’s rankings
are from January, but I felt the need to include the ranking because he’s very
good at what he does.)

provorovrankings

The first thing worth noting is that not only in these
rankings, but in pretty much any rankings I could find, Provorov never once is
ranked above 5th, which doesn’t mean that he’s not higher to some
teams, but doesn’t seem like he may belong in the discussion for the Leafs
fourth overall pick. Initially I figured the climb in the rankings by Ivan was
due to his performance at the CHL Top Prospects Game, but it’s clear that Provorov
is in the conversation for a high pick though because his overall play as a
defenceman puts him there. Button and McKeens both have Provorov listed as the
best defenceman in the draft, ahead of Hanifin (we’ll start explaining why in a
bit) and while some have him as the 3rd best defenseman behind Zach
Werenski (Pronman’s January rankings and Future Considerations) he still
remains one of the best high upside picks if your team is in need of improving
your blueline (the Leafs definitely are).

“Some players stumble a bit after returning from the World
Juniors. Ivan Provorov clearly isn’t one of them as the only first-year
draft-eligible blueliner in the WHL to be averaging a point per game or more
since the start of January. He’s well on his way to becoming a top 10 selection
in June.”- Cody
Nickolet, Dub From Above

HIS STATS ARE FANCY

Using CHLStats.com we
quickly learn that there’s a lot to like about Ivan.

provorovstats

So, it definitely looks like offence won’t be one of his
short comings. Provorov had very little trouble being one of the top producing
defencemen in his draft year. His points, points per game, and NHL equivalency
were all tops for draft eligible defencemen, and while his point share was a
little lower, it should be noted that the Brandon Wheat Kings were the top team
in the WHL, and feature Morgan Klimchuk, John and Peter Quenneville, and Jayce
Hawryluk to weight down any share percentage. Provorov’s own defensive partner
Ryan Pilon, also had a significant share, but as he’s regarded as more of a
stay at home defender, this may be best attributed to Provorov making those
around him better (Pilon will be a late 1st or early 2nd
pick, so he is good in his own right too.)

Provorov has seen his offensive success continue into the
WHL playoffs, and has a 0.83ppg through the first twelve games. It looks as if
Brandon will easily advance past the Calgary Hitmen which would land the Wheat
Kings in the WHL Finals.

“While the debate will rage, I see Ivan as the best and most
complete defenceman in the draft. His command of all the situations in the game
allows him to contribute and make an impact regardless of what’s confronting
him. Ivan can make the game look effortless with a brilliant understanding of
what’s unfolding in front of him either from a defensive or offensive
standpoint. His skating, quickness and balance, pinpoint passing, poise under
pressure and a great competitive determination align to make him a defenceman
who can influence the play and the outcomes in a consistent and positive
manner.”- TSN’s Craig
Button

HE PLAYS THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY

While his numbers paint Provorov as an ideal offensive
contributor, his game is well rounded enough that he can be used in any
situation. Provorov has proven that he can use his size (200lbs) to knock
opponents off the puck as well as use his strong stride to establish dominance
in races for the puck. Much like Morgan Rielly, Provorov is extremely level
headed in his own zone, and uses his intelligence to assess when he should be
skating the puck out himself, or make a smart pass to flee the zone. Rarely
does he make a panicked move, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that he’d be
able to transition his skill set to the pro game in a timely manner.

“He’s very composed with the puck, has excellent
vision and knows where everybody is on the ice,” Central Scouting’s John
Williams said. “He has good hockey IQ and takes advantage when he sees an
opening both offensively and defensively. He will play a physical game and can
separate the man from the puck.”- NHL.com article by Mike
Morreale

More and more it seems like what people are describing when
they talk about Ivan Provorov is the Russian Seth Jones. A pro sized defenceman
who has every tool you’d hope and in fact, Provorov’s statistics are actually
better than either Seth Jones or Ryan Murray’s, and both of those players
received strong consideration as first overall picks in their draft years.

““I don’t know why guys keep trying to go down his side
(left). Waste of time. His gap-control (on puck-carrier) is exceptional,” said
one amateur scout, who feels Provorov is as good as No. 2 overall 2012 pick
Ryan Murray coming out of junior.” – Edmonton
Journal article by Jim Matheson

Craig Button has been asked many times to explain why he’d
put Provorov ahead of Noah Hanifin in the draft, and the answer given speaks to
a greater upside in Provorov. Where Button sees Hanifin as a potential Jay
Bouwmeester type defenseman, who will be a reliable number two defender, who
eats a ton of minutes and gives you steady play in any situation, Button makes
a different case for Provorov. While Button hasn’t provided a direct NHL
comparison for Ivan, he has hinted that it’s reasonable to expect a style of
hockey similar to Keith or Doughty, and that there is much more a true 1D
upside with Ivan and his impact is more noticeable in the game.

For a comparison to style of play we can look at what Cody
Nickolet said of Provorov during his midterm rankings
:

“Provorov does a bit of everything on the ice and does it
all well. While not being an extremely explosive player, he doesn’t have many
weaknesses. He’s smart, he skates well, he moves the puck hard and accurately
and he can play in any situation you put him in. He also has shown an increased
edge in his game the last few times I’ve seen him, although I don’t project him
to ever be a big bruiser on the blueline. Think of a guy like Mark Giordano. I
think the two play a similar style and offer up many of the same attributes.”

THE LEAFS NEED EVERYTHING

So why would the
Leafs take Provorov at 4th? Well, the case for Provorov is
essentially this. He might be the best of the swing for the fences prospects in
the group of players available at that time. The opportunity to get a player
who could be a couple of years from challenging Rielly for the top D spot is
enticing, and he could help turn the Leafs blueline into one of the best in the
league in a few years time. There is also a case to be made for the amount of
forward depth in the first round. If the Leafs feel confident that they can
find a solid center in the 21-25 range when the Preds pick comes up, maybe it’s
better to go for the elite defender up front. If the Leafs still consider size
an important factor in who they select (all signs point to no) Provorov is next
most developed player after Dylan Strome who should be considered in this
range, and like Strome there is still a skill game there in a safe form.

Of course, if I’m being completely honest, I’d be disappointed
if the Leafs were to select Provorov at 4. I would rather the Leafs add a
forward and chase defenders like Kylington, Roy, or Chabot later in the round.
The scenario where the Leafs should be considering Provorov is likely limited
to if any of the other teams drafting behind them would be happier with a Leafs
roster player than using their 1st round pick. In those situations
Provorov has to be one of top names you consider for selection.

I’ll leave you with a couple of clips of Provorov. The first
is the highlight that makes you drool. Enjoy. The second is a shift by shift
look at Provorov in a game where he scores twice. As noted by the narrator the
quality of the video isn’t great, but gives a good feel for what Provorov’s
game is like (against a low seed playoff team.)





PREVIOUSLY IN THE MAKING A CASE SERIES…

Mitch Marner

Noah Hanifin

Dylan Strome

  • Jeremy Ian

    “hopefully I can make enough of a case that… the Leafs should move mountains to acquire a second top ten pick.” You did it.

    The Leafs should move the NSH pick and some pieces to NJ for their 6th.

    If AZ takes Hanifin, then draft Strome or Marner & Provorov; if AZ picks Strome (which is what I suspect will happen), then draft Marner & Hanifin.

    The trade with Nashville is looking very smart right now.

    • If the rumour that NJ wants a top six forward, that means you’re giving up JVR or Kessel for that pick. Is that worth Provorov? I almost feel like Kessel in particular is worth more.

      Certainly wouldn’t add the Nashville pick to that package.

      • silentbob

        I don’t see the Devils moving the 6th overall pick in this years draft or anything less then Kessel.

        If Strome or Hanifin would go 1st overall in a “normal” draft, that means whoever goes 6th probably would be a 2nd or 3rd overall pick in a normal year. That kind of opportunity will be very expensive to get.

        Personally, I think it would absolutely worth it for a rebuilding team that won’t be good or competitive for at least a few seasons to give up a 28 (when next season starts) sniper who may very well be past his prime when the team starts winning again for another high potential prospect. What better return for Kessel is out there?

        • STAN

          lamoriello already said he will trade the 6th overall pick for a scoring singer. probably jvr would do. he’s desperate to trade the pick for an NHL player now. he might take kessel if it included a package but I think he would take jvr for the 6th pick + gelinas (he’s the odd man out and will probably be shopped). he’s worth it because of his friendly contract, young age and he scored 30 goals.

        • Jeremy Ian

          I was in Newark to see the last Devils game against the Leafs and it was half empty, and half of the half were Leaf fans from the NY area, so Lou’s desperate to get his fan base re-energized. JVR would be a big boost.

          • silentbob

            JVR would be a boost

            But not one worth giving up the 6th overall pick in this years draft for.

            As I said the 6th pick this year is the 2 or 3 pick in a “normal year”, you don’t get that pick for JVR. It would cost us Kessel, which is a cost we should happily pay at this point.

      • Jeremy Ian

        I was thinking more along the lines of JVR — the brass in Newark will pay an added premium for (one of the rare) local talents. The right package may not even cost the NSH pick. But if the Devils wanted the NSH pick, you could assemble a different mix with Lupul and a prospect.

  • STAN

    From these two videos it appears Provorov has more upside than Morgan Rielly.

    His skating is just as smooth, although he doesn’t appear to be quite as quick.

    His passing is better than Rielly’s and his calm and poise are miles ahead of Rielly.

    I agree with Button’s Hanafin / Provorov comparison and his preference for Provorov.

    This is one of the richest amateur drafts in recent memory and if the Shanahan/Hunter/Dubas are, in fact, generational difference-makers, they will find a way to pluck at least two of the top six and three of the top ten.

    Imagine adding Strome, Povorov AND…

      • silentbob

        Working out a scenario in which the Leafs acquire all of the first 10 picks. It’s pretty complicated though and involves about 22 different teams so it might take a while. I’ll post it later along with a mock draft and line combinations for next years team.

  • FlareKnight

    It’s another interesting option for the Leafs to look at. I would agree that if they went with him at 4 I’d probably feel some disappointment, but I’d get behind it.

    If it came down to a D selection, I’d probably still go with Hanifin. No offense to Button (or offense, he’s probably not reading this), I stil think Hanifin is the right pick. I don’t know about their ceilings but I feel like that’s the better pick there.

    If we can get another top 10 pick and Provorov is still on the board go nuts and grab him, that’s one very talented guy right there.

  • STAN

    @silent bob

    Just to clarify, if McDavid and Eichel are givens at one and two in this OUTLIER of a draft, then 3 becomes 1, 4 becomes 2, 5 becomes 3 and 6, yes THAT 6, becomes 4. Not 2 and not 3.

    Math.

    • silentbob

      What I’m saying isn’t just a bumping thing if you take 1-2 players out. I’m comparing the talent/potential level of this years group vs that of a “normal” year

      Hanifin AND Strome are both guys talented enough to be #1 in a “normal” draft year that only has one player like that, and you could argue Marner as well. That next group of players would then slide into those 2-3 spots behind the Hanifin/Strome that goes #1 in a normal year.

      Its possible that one of Hanifin, Strome or Marner falls to 6 this year, it just takes 1 team out of 5 to go a little off board for that to happen. I don’t think a player like JVR gets you that pick, for that kind of potential I think its Kessel or you’re out of the conversation.

  • silentbob

    I really like this pick. No disrespect to Hanafin but a Bowmeister ceiling doesn’t strike me as swinging for the fences not that I would be be terribly upset at Hanafin. Picking Provorov is a swing for the fences. Really it’s going to be nice getting a real good prospect which ever way they decide to go.

  • silentbob

    Shouldnt we be talking about the edmonton oilers? Seems to me thats all you have to talk about these days. Heard we will probably be getting babcock soon too. Mcdavids going to be our first pick and toronto cant afford him so have fun getting the next 4 first over all draft picks in the next 4 yrs. Toronto is no longer the centre of the universe. Alberta is- just ask all the easterners who now call this place home. btw we will be sending you your welfare cheque as soon as the oil spikes again….cheers