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What if week: Do the Flyers still take Ivan Provorov in a re-draft of the 2015 class?

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Provorov has been a slam dunk for the Flyers, but is there another direction for the No. 7 overall pick in this alternate reality?

Carolina Hurricanes v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

With “What if” week going strong, SB Nation decided to embark on a re-draft of one of the best drafts in recent memory: the 2015 NHL Draft held in Sunrise, Florida.

Flyers fans remember the 2015 class well as they nabbed defenseman Ivan Provorov from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League with the seventh overall selection. Provorov broke into the NHL in 2016-17 as a 20-year-old and has emerged as a top pair defenseman while also showing Ironman status in having yet to miss a single game in his young career to date.

But in a re-draft it’s never guaranteed to end up with the same player, especially given the success that Provorov has enjoyed to date since being the No. 7 overall selection back in 2015, a spot that some pundits felt might have even a bit late at the time.

Will the Flyers still end up with their defensive anchor in this hypothetical scenario, or will we be forced to go in a different direction with the big cheese off the board? Let’s find out how the board shook out, shall we.

While the top two remains the same (duh, all-time lock), the fun starts with the Coyotes going with Mitchell Marner in place of Dylan Strome (related: are all the Strome’s actually just bad?) and forcing the Maple Leafs to grab Mikko Rantanen instead.

Then Carolina passes on Noah Halifan, a player they traded not long after in order to nab Mat Barzal, who somehow slipped all the way to No. 16 in the real thing back in 2015. The Devils would love a do-over in this draft to say the least, and get their reprieve in this scenario with high-scoring defenseman Zach Werenski.

Hey there’s the Flyers, and we’re on the clock...going with Provorov again (he’s good!).

Why would we still take Provorov in this spot as part of the 2015 re-draft you ask? Well for starters Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Marner, and Rantanen were already off the board. That’s the easy part, but choosing between Barzal, Werenski and Sebastian Aho is where the arguments really start —kind of.

The Hurricanes and Devils people made things easier by taking two of the aforementioned before the Flyers’ pick, but should all three have been available in some type of scenario it would be an argument to have for sure between the three and Provorov.

Let’s start with Barzal.

Bona ]fide No. 1 centers don’t just grow on trees and mercy would the Flyers be loaded down the middle being able to pair Sean Couturier with Barzal for the next decade-plus. Claude Giroux could still slide on a wing and pile up points while also preserving the later stages of his career. Thinking Barzal, who has piled up 207 points in 234 career games despite being somewhat held back by coach Barry Trotz’ tight system —and missing one “t” in his name— would enjoy the alternate reality in Philadelphia and thrive as a Claude Giroux clone. Shame it’s not since the Canes pounced all over their man.

Next up is a man that will no doubt share some comparisons with Provorov over the course of their careers in Werenski, who was picked ahead of Provy in both the real world and this world.

Werenski is a dynamic point producer and playmaker on defense as evidence by his three 40-plus point seasons and four double-digit goal seasons since entering the league in 2016-17. He’s outpaced Provorov on the offensive end, but not by enough (21 points in four seasons) to suggest that we’re talking about Paul Coffey vs. Mike Rathje here, so is Werenski just as good everywhere else in order to facilitate his higher selection?

The thing is the two are hard to compare given their respective usages thus far in their careers, and proved true in their respective contract negotiations prior to the start of the 2019-20 season. Provorov has been deployed as a top pair defenseman since he arrived in 2016 (54% defensive zone starts) while Werenski has spent 57% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone and propelling a dangerous Blue Jackets’ attack.

Provorov may lag behind a tad offensively, but he’s the superior defender given similar career possession metrics (49% Corsi For vs. 52% for Werenski) even after looking at their zone deployments in addition to logging 266 more blocked shots than Werenski in just 15 more career games. He’s the more complete player at this stage, and would certainly be worth a selection over Werenski in this exercise should both have been on the board.

As for the next man, the argument is certainly one that has both sides —with some likely preferring Aho to Provorov.

Aho somehow slid all the way to the 35th overall pick in 2015, but has emerged as one of the NHL’s top pivots in short order for the Hurricanes. In the re-draft he leaps all the way into the top-10 and for good reason. Aho has seen his goal scoring increase each season since entering the league in 2016 as a 19-year-old, going from 24, 29, 30, and then 38 in just 68 games prior to the suspension of play this season. He’s been a possession monster (2.7% Corsi Relative) on a team loaded with them in Carolina the past few years, and would have/will be on the short list for the Selke Trophy given the the league’s top two-way center forward.

While Barzal fits as premier option to pair with Couturier for the next decade or so, Aho would also be an ideal fit given his ceiling as a 40-goal scorer in a league that you can never have enough scoring. Given the Flyers’ current and past roster construction, it’s begging for a guy like Aho who can just score in bunches. The fact that he comes with the positional rarity of a center who can do so (and be defensively responsible) is a heck of an argument to be the selection over Provorov given both options.

Of course without Provorov the Flyers would still be missing a top pair defenseman, something that’s almost as hard to procure as a No. 1 center.

But while Provorov is the pick here, it’s pretty clear that the Flyers come out of the both the re-draft and the real draft as a clear winner. Probably a good time to point out that the Devils picked Pavel Zacha eight overall in real life and the Bruins passed on Barzal and Aho three times. Yikes.

So what say you, gentle readers? Is the pick still Provorov or is there another direction here more palpable?

Poll

Who should the Flyers have taken in SB Nation’s 2015 NHL Entry re-draft?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Ivan Provorov
    (411 votes)
  • 11%
    Sebastian Aho
    (53 votes)
  • 0%
    Timo Meier
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Thomas Chabot
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Kyle Connor
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Other —in comments
    (1 vote)
475 votes total Vote Now