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
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.)
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


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


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.”- article by Mike
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.”


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.)