We've been saying for a while now that, if all goes according to plan, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to have the opportunity to draft a damn good prospect with the No. 7 overall pick in this 2015 NHL draft.
So the staff here at Broad Street Hockey was damn excited as SB Nation's 2015 NHL mock draft rolled off the board this week. We knew we were going to have an awesome opportunity to pick a great prospect, and that's exactly what we did.
The first two picks went as expected, with the Oilers -- via The Copper & Blue -- selecting Connor McDavid and with the Sabres -- via Die By The Blade -- selecting Jack Eichel. This is the point where it starts to get a little interesting, both in mock drafts and the real thing, and here's how the players ran off the board:
- 3. Arizona: Dylan Strome, via Five For Howling
- 4. Toronto: Mitch Marner, via Pension Plan Puppets
- 5. Carolina: Noah Hanifin, via Canes Country
- 6. New Jersey: Mathew Barzal, via In Lou We Trust
And with that, we're up.
With the 7th overall pick in SB Nation's 2015 NHL mock draft, the Philadelphia Flyers are proud to select, from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, defenseman Ivan Provorov.
The best defenseman in this draft?
Yes, the Flyers are flush with defensive prospects these days, but there's a case to be made that Provorov is the best defenseman in this draft -- if it weren't for the insane skating skills of Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin, he would be considered that by many more. Still, Provorov's pulled ahead of Hanifin in some rankings, including that of TSN's Craig Button, who says this:
While the debate will rage, I see Ivan as the best and most complete defen[s]eman 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 defen[s]eman who can influence the play and the outcomes in a consistent and positive manner.
In any event, Hanifin went off the board at No. 5 in our mock draft, and it's likely that somebody takes him before No. 7 in the real draft. For my money, Hanifin is still a better overall player -- even if maybe he doesn't have the same offensive skills as Provorov. But that the argument is there for a team to take Provorov as the first defenseman in this draft goes to show you how good he is.
He's a complete player who, unlike many offensively-skilled defensemen, doesn't lack and is responsible in his own zone. He can play all situations. And yes, while he played with a lot of talented players in Brandon this past year that some fear may have masked his skill, he's also shown off at the World Juniors for Russia ... at age 17.
On top of his skill, he commitment is off the charts -- something that's always a question with Russian players, fairly or not. After coming up in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl program in Russia, he came to North America four years ago, playing in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. for two years before jumping to the USHL and finally, last season, the WHL.
"Commitment" is a nebulous thing to talk with elite level hockey prospects ... because of course they're all committed. But it does show a different, undeniable degree of foresight and commitment to leave your home country at age 14 and go to a place where you don't speak the language, all in the hope of eventually making the NHL.
Too good to pass up
Despite the lack of organizational need at this position, we simply can't pass up the best remaining available player on the board here. Provorov will join an elite group of defensive prospects here. Between him, Travis Sanheim, Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, the Flyers are well on their way to compiling what could be a dominant home-grown blue line -- and that applies even if some of those other names wind up not working out.
Sanheim is one guy that's quickly emerging as maybe the most promising in that group, and look at this note from Scott Wheeler's great profile of Provorov. Emphasis ours.
Provorov is more than that in-your-face, scoring defender though. He plays a complete game in his own end, and is an adept penalty killer. His creativity as a passer also give him more than one weapon in the offensive zone.
And while Provorov isn't as gifted a skater as his top defensive counterparts Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski are, his pure strength and strong, low stride remain assets. He's also one of the classes best stickhandler from the backend.
Statistically, he stands out from the pack. In fact, Provorov's 0.95 age adjusted points per game (aaPPG) ranked first in the WHL this season, ahead of Anaheim's Shea Theodore (0.89), Detroit's Joe Hicketts (0.88), and Philadelphia's Travis Sanheim (0.83).
At a young age, Provorov has already learned to impose himself on a game, and dictate the play, something many young, gifted defensemen struggle to accomplish.
We were a little tempted to take a winger with this slot -- particularly Mikko Rantanen -- just to fill the Flyers' organizational need for a promising prospect at that position. But Provorov is just too good to pass up, and when the most common word used to describe him as a player is "complete," he becomes even harder to pass up.
We don't want to look back in five years with regret on what we could have had with him. Instead, we'll watch him do it as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers organization.