VOORHEES, N.J. – Bob Clarke and Eric Lindros were named Flyers’ captains in their early 20s and they went on to enjoy Hall of Fame careers.
Wearing the “C’’ in hockey is a pretty big deal and so, in a way, is wearing the “A’’ for alternate captain.
No one is putting defenseman Ivan Provorov in the same class as the aforementioned duo just yet, but there is a sense that he’s going to be wearing a letter on his jersey sooner or later.
It might even be sooner, considering that one of last year’s alternate captains, defenseman Andrew MacDonald, is sidelined for up to six weeks with a lower-body injury.
Provorov is entering his third year with the Flyers and he’s already established himself as a rising star.
In fact, on Friday’s first day of training camp, captain Claude Giroux went so far as to call him one of the “top 10 defensemen’’ in the National Hockey League.
That’s pretty high praise.
The 21-year-old Provorov has already posted an impressive resume.
He has yet to miss a game, with 164 straight regular-season starts (a Flyers record), he’s broken all sorts of team ice-time records and he’s considered the steadier presence of the number one defense pairing along with Shayne Gostisbehere.
If coach Dave Hakstol were to name Provorov an alternate captain in MacDonald’s absence, how much of a big deal would it be?
“It would be an honor,’’ Provorov disclosed after a morning workout at the Skate Zone. “For me, I’m going to try and lead on and off the ice, whether you have an ‘A’ or you don’t.
“There are a lot of great leaders on this team who don’t have an ‘A.’ We have a great team and I think everyone wants to do what they can to help the team win.’’
Giroux, now second in all-time games as captain to only Clarke, is a big believer in Provorov’s abilities.
“I was watching him play today and I started laughing a little bit,’’ Giroux said. “The plays he does. Guys try to go one-on-one against him and he just makes it look easy.
“He’s a leader. He does the right thing. He’s a professional, on and off the ice. At his age, you don’t see that too often. He doesn’t need an ‘A’ to be a leader. Logs a lot of minutes, plays in every situation, a true leader.’’
To say Provorov is underappreciated is an understatement.
NHL.com did not list him in its latest “Top 20,’’ which, by the way, includes Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton and Nashville’s Ryan Ellis.
“You watch him play one game, you’re like ‘this kid is pretty good,’ but if you watch every game, you go ‘this kid is really good,’+’’ Giroux said.
“He does it every night. The things he does, the little details. People who really watch the game and see what’s going on – if you look at him for a full game, you say this guy’s always in good position. Breaking up plays, making that first pass.’’
It’s Provorov’s quiet efficiency that’s so impressive.
“Usually with defensemen, when you don’t see them during the game, it means it’s a good thing,’’ Giroux said. “It means he’s playing well.’’
Provorov has a lot working to his advantage.
He came over from Russia at 13 to get an early jump on the culture, the language, the smaller rinks, etc.
Now he’s exuding more confidence with each passing day.
“Last year was so much easier coming in and knowing everybody,’’ he explained. “I started talking a little bit but not too much. This year I’m going to take a step forward in that department as well.’’
When the “A’’ eventually happens, he says he will embrace the role.
“Hopefully one day I’ll take that step,’’ he said.
Who knows? It could happen as early as Sunday if he plays in the Flyers’ first preseason game at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders.