Rick Tocchet: Flyers' Ivan Provorov has 'capability to be a top defenseman in this league'

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Tocchet: Provorov has 'capability to be a top defenseman in this league' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Rick Tocchet was high on Ivan Provorov in 2019-20.

He remains very high on him now.

In December 2019, as head coach of the Coyotes, Tocchet extolled the maturation of Provorov, who was still only 22 years old at the time and had already become pretty established.

"I think he's one of the best young defensemen in the league," Tocchet said then.

Over the following two seasons, Provorov has hit some bumps in the road as the Flyers have hit some major ones. In the last two years, the 25-year-old has had a rotating cast of partners on the Flyers' top defensive pair. Provorov, who has a machine-like, do-everything mindset, has had to overcompensate for the instability. Undeniably, his play has suffered.

Provorov had a career-worst minus-20 rating last season on a team that finished with a minus-87 goal differential. Over the last two seasons, Provorov has combined for one power play goal. In 2019-20, he led all NHL defensemen in power play goals with seven.

Tocchet, coming off his first season doing in-studio commentary for NHL on TNT, believes Provorov is still a top-pair guy that can anchor the Flyers' back end.

"Absolutely," Tocchet said on this week's edition of NBC Sports Philadelphia's Flyers Talk podcast. "His arrow has trended down the last year and a half or two for whatever reason; I don't know what's going on in the dressing room. But he's got the skill, he's got the hockey IQ, he's proved it.

"Like I said a couple of years ago, I loved that guy. I wouldn't have traded that guy for nobody. I think this guy right now gets a summer off to refresh, gets a new coaching staff, a new defensive coach. I think he can just kind of relax going into this year and don't put so much pressure on him."

Provorov will get a chance to work with new assistant coaches Brad Shaw (penalty kill/defensemen) and Rocky Thompson (power play/forwards).

"I've watched him walk the blue line on the power play and it seemed like from two years ago, he had a shot mentality," Tocchet said. "It seems like he's overpassing; that's just from my bird's-eye view, from being on your guys' side, the media side. So I'd like to see him take more control of the power play, be the top guy.

"But all around, his breakouts and things like that, what I've seen, he's got the capability to be a top defenseman in this league."

Alongside steady veteran Matt Niskanen in 2019-20, Provorov was a consistent and happy customer.

Last season, he still took on a lot for the Flyers, but his frustration was noticeable. The Flyers went 25-46-11 and Provorov is a competitive guy.

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"Ivan certainly isn't a polarizing figure within our group," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said at his end-of-the-season press conference in May. "We really respect and appreciate what he does. He plays close to 25 minutes a night, he goes back for every puck, he’s fearless, he blocks every shot, he competes in front of the net, he has a big shot, he moves the puck.

"At times he maybe holds on to it a little bit too much. I think as we get him the right partner, like we had in '19-20 for him, I thought he was much more effective in that regard. He gets every top matchup, he gets every defensive zone faceoff basically, first PK.

"We ask a lot out of Ivan Provorov and I think he gives us a lot. As the talent around him improves, like every player, he’ll be better, but he’s already a pretty good player."

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