Flyers

Ivan Provorov provides Flyers a timely reminder of their mission

Ivan Provorov provides Flyers a timely reminder of their mission

Shayne Gostisbehere laughed in sheer wonderment.

He was talking about 20-year-old defenseman Ivan Provorov.

Gostisbehere, only 24 and no slouch himself on the blue line, was trying to comprehend Provorov's ability, which doesn't quite match the player's age.

"Ivan's game is so mature -- he has no risk in his game, he's just so sound and the way he plays, makes it look so easy and it pisses people off," Gostisbehere said last week with a smile. "But just the things he does is unbelievable. He's awesome to watch.

"He's only 19 or 20 and I'm like, 'This guy makes me look bad sometimes because he's so smooth.' He's a great player. I don't see Provy having any problems next year. If he does, they'll be minor."

Provorov had that type of impact in his first NHL season, one that saw him jump from the junior ranks right to the big boys as a teenager.

How did he fare?

Well, considering he played all 82 games, led the Flyers in ice time at 21:58 per night -- a franchise rookie record -- and took home the Barry Ashbee Award as the team's top defenseman, he acquitted himself just fine.

With the Flyers' failure to make the playoffs and an offseason bubbling with unanswered questions, Provorov is the team's surest bet moving forward -- a reassuring positive about the organization becoming younger and building through the draft.

"You get a sense of a kid in his draft year," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last Thursday at his end-of-the-season press conference. "You watch him and you get a sense of the kid. You start meeting with him up to the draft, meet with his parents, you start to get a sense that this kid is really, really dialed in. Most kids, they're out playing video games and doing this and doing that. Provy, it's like he's 30. He's a very mature kid."

The native of Russia has become the poster child for the Flyers' youth plunge on defense. Two more rookies are likely to carve out roster spots alongside Provorov and Gostisbehere in 2017-18.

"Provy, I hope he's one of the guys next year where young kids come in and watch him," Hextall said. "Kid's a pro."

Last training camp, Provorov convinced Hextall there was no more junior play needed. At 19 years old, Provorov had to either go back to his junior league or make the Flyers' roster.

He made Hextall's decision look easy.

"For a 19-year-old defenseman to come in and provide the minutes, the hard minutes, steady play, composure, professionalism -- I mean, it's unique," Hextall said. "He's a special kid in terms of his whole focus in life is hockey. He's 24/7. He watches hockey, he studies hockey, he thinks hockey. He trains a ridiculous amount of time in the summer. He's a hockey player and it's special."

Provorov was quickly anointed to a crucial role on the Flyers' special teams units. He led the Flyers in shorthanded ice time and was Gostisbehere's backup running the power-play point, especially once veteran Mark Streit was traded at the March 1 deadline. Overall, Provorov finished with 30 points -- six goals and 24 assists.

More impressively, the 2015 seventh overall draft pick showed he's a quick study. In his third NHL game, Provorov made an embarrassing tumble and turnover during a 7-4 loss to the Blackhawks at the United Center. Provorov finished a minus-5 that game and was a minus-9 through his first 11 outings.

Those struggles did not last long and the next time he saw the Blackhawks, he scored two goals in a 3-1 win to put his Chicago nightmare in the past.

"I think after 15, 20 games, I started to play my game," Provorov said, "and I think I got better as the season went on, both on and off the ice.

"The guys and the coaches said, and I knew myself, it's a long year. Sometimes you forget about games and then you go back and learn from mistakes and you get better."

Provorov said he learned to make the simple play sometimes instead of always swinging for the home run.

"That was my biggest adjustment," he said. "You can't make the most out of every possession you have. So it probably took a little bit. In juniors, if there was no play, I could have just kept it myself or held onto the puck as long as I wanted to. You can't do that here. All the teams are well-structured and pressured hard."

While Provorov learned, the Flyers did, too.

"I think it's fair to say he's one of the guys we're going to build around here," Hextall said.

And Gostisbehere is looking forward to it.

"You can look at Ivan, and you think he's a young man -- he is, but the way he carries himself, he's a great kid, great player and his game is mature beyond his age," Gostisbehere said. "It's just the swagger these younger guys have. And it's not cockiness at all, it's just confidence and that's the biggest thing."

Which Shayne Gostisbehere should Flyers fans expect in 2019-20 season?

Which Shayne Gostisbehere should Flyers fans expect in 2019-20 season?

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jordan Hall and Brooke Destra

The topic: Predictions for Shayne Gostisbehere's 2019-20 season.

Hall

Some reporter (it was me) was bullish on Gostisbehere entering the 2018-19 season. 

He was super impressed by Gostisbehere's skill and mobility during the preseason, especially with the defenseman fresh off a career-high 65 points, the fourth most among NHL blueliners in 2017-18.

He foresaw big things for Gostisbehere. And that reporter (it was me) was way off.

There are a handful of important factors to note when analyzing the outlook for Gostisbehere in 2019-20.

Firstly, Gostisbehere will be playing under a new coaching staff. Coaches and their philosophies are crucial to a player like Gostisbehere.

Secondly, during his exit interview, Gostisbehere admitted to dealing with a banged-up knee from early on through the midseason. He didn't use it as an excuse, but for a guy that relies heavily on his slipperiness and mobility, a knee problem can be a significant hindrance.

And thirdly, Gostisbehere should feel a lighter burden on his shoulders with the additions of Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun. Both bring different elements to the table but understand goal prevention and can play minutes. One would think those acquisitions will allow Gostisbehere to play a bit more freely without the 26-year-old trying to do too much, overthinking every decision.

How all of the above impacts Gostisbehere's production and usefulness will be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch in 2019-20.

I don't see why Gostisbehere can't get back into the 50-point range or 40-assist territory — although, that will depend on a lot.

Destra

I'll be very upfront with my views of Gostisbehere's performance last season — it was no indication of the direction he is heading in as a player and it truly isn't a big concern (at the moment). He was one of many players who underperformed on the Flyers and when his lower-body injury surfaced at the season's end, it validated a lot.

He's about to have a bounce-back year — and it's going to be a good one.

Heading into this season, this is probably the most balanced the defense has looked in well over a decade. He will be able to play on his true side as a LHD and will have the opportunity to be a leader to whoever the other half of his pairing is.

Even though he wasn't at the top of his game in 2018-19, he was still able to put up nine goals — this tied him for the lead in most goals scored by a defenseman on the Flyers (along with Travis Sanheim).

Gostisbehere also has the ability to make or break his respective power-play unit. Not many players stationed up at the blue line have the kind of sniper shot he can produce. Even if he doesn't pot one, he is capable of getting the puck in deep and setting up high-danger scoring opportunities.

It'll be tough to top the numbers he put up in 2017-18 (65 points — 13 goals, 52 assists), but there's a chance he comes close to it. By the nature of his game, he is an offensive defenseman — his instincts are strong and he tries to contribute to his team in any way that he can.

It's very possible to see him at 55-plus points for 2019-20.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

A 30-goal defenseman? Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is a 'double whammy' to watch

zack_hill_philadelphia_flyers_ronnie_attard.jpg
Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

A 30-goal defenseman? Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is a 'double whammy' to watch

Ronnie Attard is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds.

He loves the physical nature of the game — playing with a mean streak, delivering hits and standing up for teammates.

"That's something that has been a staple of my game since I was a little kid, something that my dad instilled in me," Attard said in June. "If you're the hardest player to play against out on the ice, people are going to notice you."

What also gets you noticed? Thirty goals by a defenseman. That's what Attard pulled off with the USHL's Tri-City Storm in 2018-19. It turned him into a third-round selection of the Flyers this summer after Attard had been draft eligible twice and never heard his name called. He's a 20-year-old with booming potential.

"I still use that staple of being good defensively," Attard said. "Then I started incorporating my offense, which is a double whammy."

With the Storm, Attard blew up in one year. He went from 15 points and a minus-9 rating through 50 games in 2017-18 to 30 goals, 65 points and a plus-47 mark over 48 games to win 2018-19 USHL Player of the Year.

How in the world did he go from undrafted to double whammy, just like that?

You see where he was a year or two ago to where he is now, his mobility, he's gotten a lot stronger, he's gained a ton of confidence, especially on the offensive side of things. He's always been a competitive kid and a hard-nosed kid, but to see where his overall game has come, it hit you in the face when you went to watch him play.

Obviously, we're not expecting him to score 30 goals a year in the NHL, but that stat you can't hide from, either. You score 30 goals in any league in 48 games, you are doing something right.

- Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr

Strength and confidence can do wonders for a young player. Attard brewed the combination by working out at Western Michigan with former NHL head coach Andy Murray and the Broncos.

"Coach Murray called me up last summer and wanted me to be a part of their strength program and get on the ice there," Attard said. "That's been the biggest thing — being on the ice with his players, seeing what they do and they taught me a lot.

"I went back to my junior team and had a bunch of confidence."

Western Michigan will be a team to keep an eye on for Flyers fans in 2019-20. Attard is entering his freshman year for the Broncos, while fellow Flyers prospect Wade Allison will be a senior winger with something to prove.

"I know him pretty well, I've been kind of following in his footsteps," Attard said of Allison. "He played at Tri-City and then went to Western, and I did the same thing. We know a lot of mutual people and we get along really well.

"He gave me the rundown and how things are handled there. It's another top-notch organization, Andy Murray's been around the game a long time, so hoping to learn a lot from him."

Despite his big shot and 30-goal breakout season, Attard knows he's far from a finished product.

"My skating and just my consistency," Attard said of the areas in which he wants to improve. "There are some nights where I'm the best player out on the ice and there are other nights where I'm just kind of irrelevant. I want to be able to bring that every night, just knowing what it takes to get my game at that 100 percent level.

"I just want to keep getting better, develop my footwork, my consistency level, even my shot has a little work to be put into it. Once I think I can come to this level and succeed and be an impact and help these guys out, that's when I'm going to make the jump."

Attard turned heads with the jump he made last season.

How fast could he tackle college?

"He's going to a Western Michigan program with quality coaching," Flahr said. "He should be an interesting watch here over the next couple of years."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers