VOORHEES, N.J. — Ivan Provorov would qualify in the cruiserweight division if he were a professional boxer.
As it is, the Flyers' top defensive prospect not in the NHL has been boxing for 10 years, and at 201 pounds isn’t shy about using his skills.
“When I have to, I can,” Provorov said with a smile on Thursday at Flyers development camp.
He did last season in the WHL, taking on fellow Flyers defensive prospect Travis Sanheim.
“We’re friends off the ice,” Provorov said. “There is no friends on the ice, no matter who you play against. I play hard every game and he does, too.”
Indeed, the 19-year-old Russian played hard enough to be voted the WHL’s Defenseman of the Year with the Brandon Wheat Kings and had another strong showing for Team Russia at the World Junior Championships.
Provorov's 73 points in 62 games led all defensemen in the WHL.
“I think I improved in all areas of my game, offensively, defensively and scoring more goals,” he said. “I’m going to continue to keep growing as a player — that’s my goal, to keep growing as a player every day.”
Many NHL scouts feel Provorov is the most well-rounded teenage defenseman out there and could be playing for a number of NHL clubs right now.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is taking a wait-and-see approach this fall, even though the organization is under pressure from the fan base to get younger, exciting players on the ice.
Shayne Gostisbehere’s phenomenal year as a Calder Trophy finalist has whet season ticket holders’ appetite for more explosion on the blue line.
The 6-foot-1 Provorov has shown he can deliver with effortless, agile skating and keen instincts with or without the puck to generate offense.
All Hextall would say this week is that if Provorov is ready, he’ll find a spot.
“We have enough bodies, we have enough good players, we made the playoffs last year, so they have to come in and beat someone out,” Hextall said.
Is Provorov ready to be a teenage defenseman in the NHL?
“I can’t tell,” he answered candidly. “It’s hard to make the NHL. It’s the best league in the world and the best players play in this league. I think if you work hard, stay humble and get better every day, you can make the transition.”
Because of his age, he either makes the Flyers or goes back to junior. He can’t play for the Phantoms yet.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I am going to have another good summer and [if] I’m ready, I’ll play. If not, then I’m not.”
Provorov admits he was impressed with what he saw from Gostisbehere, who essentially saved the Flyers' season. Without him, the club never would have had a sniff of the playoffs.
Ghost set a franchise mark for rookie defensemen with 17 goals. He also set an NHL record for a point streak by a rookie defenseman at 15 games.
Gostisbehere’s performance has given Provorov, Sanheim, Robert Hagg and other Flyers prospects hope that they too can make the cut sooner rather than later.
“Yeah, I watched some games when I could,” Provorov said. “Ghost had an unbelievable year and he is a great player. He played with confidence and helped the Flyers last year. For me, I will have another good summer, get better and come back in September to show I can play.”
Like his counterparts, Provorov exudes confidence in his abilities.
“I don’t think I have a weak spot as a player,” he said. “You can always keep growing as a player. There is no limit.
“You can get better and better. No matter what age you are. For me, keep playing a two-way game. Good defensively and create something offensively.”
That’s the kind of attitude that Hextall and others in the organization love to see from prospects.
“I’m a well-rounded defenseman who can play any type of situation, even strength, 5-on-4 or 4-on-5,” Provorov said. “I play big minutes and I am responsible defensively. And I put up good numbers offensively.”
Maybe even a good boxing match every now and then, as well.
“[Boxing’s] a good, well-rounded workout for your whole body,” he said. “It’s also, you have to step up for yourself or teammate on the ice when you have to.”