It was not all that long ago that a fan visiting the Revolution Ice Centre would be privy to a host of Russian players aiding the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights across all age levels of their program.
Names like Nikita Pavlychev, Denis Smirnov, Dmitriy Zaitsev and Andrei Svistunov pepper banners and fill walls of college commitments, honoring their accomplishments during their Knights tenure and many of those since.
One name that can be found neatly imprinted on the Knights proud T1-U14 National Championship Banner is the that of Ivan Provorov. A native of Yaroslavl, Russia, Provorov came to the Knights and the United States from Russia at the urging of Knights coach Alex Vasko in 2011. He’s made a very important benchmark for all Knights alumni; he’s broken camp on an NHL Roster.
“It took about one, maybe two minutes to know that I needed to recruit him,” said Vasko on his first encounter with Provorov. “I knew we needed a kid like him, a kid with his talent.”
Provorov’s impact was felt almost immediately. In his first season playing North American hockey, the then 14-year old dominated with the Wilkes-Barre Knights Bantam Major team, posting an eye-popping 28-33-61 in just 27 games played in the AYBHL. He played against quality talent like Jeremy Bracco (2nd round pick Toronto Maple Leafs, 2015) and with Daniel Sprong (2nd round pick, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2015), Nikita Pavlychev (7th round pick, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2015) and the aforementioned Smirnov (currently playing for Penn State). His play helped carry the Knights to an AYHL Bantam Major Championship and a USA Hockey National 14-and-Under Tier I National Championship.
“It was my job to find an issue with him in anything-on ice or off. I found nothing,” recalled Vasko. “He’s always been an incredibly responsible player and person. He know’s there’s no perfect hockey player. He worked every day; he practiced at 100% every single day.”
The reward for such work ethic and talent was reflected in the numbers and awards Provorov wracked up at every stop he made through his early hockey career. He dominated the AYHL and Midget hockey with 56-77-133 in 75 games spent between the two levels in 2012-13. He again found his name on a banner and associated with a trophy as the Knights were crowned AYHL 16U Champions.
2013-2014 saw Provorov advance to the USHL at age 16, as well as make appearances for Russia’s U18 team at World Junior Classic and International-Jr play.
At 17, he moved onward to the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League. By the conclusion of his first season in the WHL-one in which he scored 15-46-61 in 60 GP-he was named to the WHL (East) First All-Star Team, led all WHL rookies in points and assists, played in the CHL Top Prospects game, and was placed on Russia’s U20 team where he won a silver medal at the U20 World Junior Classic in addition to a JR. Super Series Championship.
His prodigious career had already more than caught the eye of NHL talent evaluators. With the 4th overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers selected the puck-moving blue liner with the idea that he’d be a major piece for years to come, but like most his age, it was determined that he would need a bit more seasoning. His former coach only partially agreed.
“I expected him to be pro,” said Vasko. “He just has that kind of talent. The only surprise is that he wasn’t in the NHL sooner.”
Provorov spent the year after his selection back with the Wheat Kings where he again flourished, scoring 21 goals and recording 52 assists, bringing his two-year totals to 36-98-134 in 122 regular season games. He was named the CHL Defenseman of the Year and the WHL’s Top Defenseman (awarded with the Bill Hunter Trophy), again made the WHL (East) First All-Star Team, led the WHL in Plus Minus (+64), led all WHL defensemen in points with 73, all on the way to becoming a WHL Champion. At the international level, he won a silver medal with Russia’s U20 team at the U20 World Junior Classic where he was named a top three player on team Russia.
This season he again returned to Philadelphia in the offseason with a chance to make their NHL roster. He would not go home disappointed, as the first edition of the Flyers 23-man roster card has the same name that graces so many banners back at the Revolution Ice Centre: Ivan Provorov.
“When I got my first look at Ivan, it was obvious we had something special,” said current Knights Director of Hockey Operations Tom Kowal. “The numbers he put up, the wins he helped us secure, that all speaks well for him on its own, but I think the speed at which he’s moved to the NHL after being drafted just last year that’s most impressive.”
Early indicators point to the Flyers trusting Provorov with steady minutes this season, and it would not be surprising to anyone inside the Revolution Ice Centre if Provorov sticks for good.
“It has been a pleasure to have had Ivan as a member of the Knights Organization,” said Kowal. “He’s a shining example of how pairing great talent with great work ethic can get you where you want to be. He’s a hockey player who’s committed himself to excellence. I know there’s great things ahead for him. We all do and we wish him only the best.”