Ivan Provorov’s dedication to the game is evident in the amount of miles he has moved around the world in an effort to better his development. At just 14 years old, he moved from Russia to the United States to play for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton bantam Knights. He went on to play for the Wilkes-Barre midget team and a season with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders before joining the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings this year.
“(I came over to North America) to learn the game because over here it’s on a smaller ice and is more physical,” says Provorov, whom the Wheat Kings chose with the 30th overall pick in the 2014 CHL import draft. “I didn’t always know I’d play in the WHL. I was half and half on either (U.S.) college or the CHL, but my agent, my dad and I decided this summer that the WHL was my best option to get to the NHL.”
Partially because he was already familiar with the North American style of play, Provorov has made a seamlessly smooth transition to major junior hockey this year. In fact, he has quickly asserted himself as one of the Dub’s top puck-moving blueliners. Look no further than how he leads all rookies in points with 11 goals and 41 points in 38 games for proof of that.
“I’ve been working hard every game and the points have been coming with that,” he says. “But I don’t focus on points. I just try to work hard and help my team win games.”
The 6-foot, 201-pound Provorov’s early season success earned him a spot on Russia’s U20 world junior team. Even though he was one of the younger players representing his country, he played as though he was a veteran showing patience and poise with the puck while playing a sound defensive game.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” says the Yaroslavl native, who notched one helper in seven contests at the 2015 WJC. “It was great to get to play in a tournament like that and win a silver medal. I learned a lot when playing against some really talented players.”
At this point in the season, it is ultimately a safe bet to believe Provorov is a first-round lock. Some scouts have went to the extent of saying he’s in the mix to be selected with a top 10 selection. In addition, only Boston College's Noah Hanifin appears to clearly have a leg up on the 18-year-old among draft eligible rearguards.
“The first round has been my goal, but I just work hard and don’t worry about it,” says Provorov, whom NHL Central Scouting Service ranked as an A-list prospect. “I know if I work hard that scouts will notice me, so that’s what I try to do every game.”
1. Do you have a favourite NHL player?
“(Retired defenceman) Nicklas Lidstrom. I like the way he played and could carry the puck up the ice.”
2. Do you have a favourite NHL team?
“I like the Detroit Red Wings. I’ve always liked them because of players like Lidstrom and (Russia native) Pavel Datsyuk.
3. What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between living in North America and Russia?
“I think for hockey that everyone here (Canada) likes hockey. Hockey is popular in Russia, but it’s not like here.”
4. What’s your favourite movie or TV show?
“My favourite movie is Gladiator. I watched it like seven years ago and still watch it because I really like it.”
5. If you weren’t entrenched in hockey, what other sport would you pursue?
“I don’t really know because I’ve always played hockey since like five years old. But basketball is my second favourite sport. I like watching it on TV.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen