VOORHEES – Now that Ivan Provorov is among the top 15 highest-paid defensemen in the NHL, you might as well pair him with someone who can bring out the best in the young Russian’s ability.
So if new head coach Alain Vigneault decides to make veteran Matt Niskanen a partner for Provorov, it certainly would give the Flyers an interesting No. 1 blue line pairing.
Niskanen, who came over to Philadelphia in the offseason Radko Gudas trade with Washington, won a Stanley Cup with the Caps a couple years ago and brings a wealth of experience to Philadelphia.
In addition, he’s a righthanded shot, which should make things easier for Provorov, who’s entering his fourth year in the NHL.
And maybe you can also throw in the fact that down in D.C., Niskanen shared ice time with another Russian, Dmitry Orlov.
“They (Provorov, Orlov) are very similar players,’’ Niskanen said after a training camp practice at the Skate Zone. “They kind of think the game the same way, similar instincts.
“So if that’s the way we start, as it has been the first two days of camp – if I get that opportunity, hopefully we can develop some chemistry like I did with Orlov. . .hopefully make him (Provorov) a better player.’’
Last year Provorov did take a step back from his brilliant 2017-18 campaign. His goal total dropped from a team-leading 17 to just seven and he went from plus-17 to minus-16 in plus-minus ratings.
Getting together with the 32-year-old Niskanen might be just what Provorov needs to get back to his old self again.
“He’s already proven a lot,’’ Niskanen pointed out. “He’s had a lot asked of him at a young age (22). He’s handled it pretty well. Hopefully we can become a good pair if that’s the way it shakes out.’’
Vigneault has been stressing pace and tempo early in the training camp and that fits Niskanen’s style of play. During his tenure with the Caps and earlier with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars, the style was always get things moving as quickly as possible.
“There’s been passing and execution-type stuff,’’ the Virginia, Minn. Native said. “And a lot of pace. There’s not a lot of standing around out there.
“That’s the way the league is going right now, especially the East. That’s the way Pittsburgh plays, the Rangers, New Jersey. The more you can become comfortable at that pace, the better you’re going to be and pretty dangerous.’’
>Laughton becoming a leader
When Scott Laughton signed a new two-year, $4.6-million contract in July, it became clear the 24-year-old center figures in their future plans.
He says he’s looking forward to working in the new Vigneault coaching regime and one of the first orders of business is getting the penalty kill back on track.
To the Flyers’ credit, they did get better as the season went along last year but there’s still a lot of work to be done. They finished 26th overall in the NHL at 78.5 percent.
“I think we moved in the right direction with our PK last year,’’ Laughton said. “I know some new personnel and a new coach (assistant coach Mike Yeo) are here, so we’ll see what we’re going to do this year.
“We have to put a huge emphasis on that because I think that really hurt us at the start of the year. It put us behind the eight-ball. I’m excited to get going and hopefully get the PK going the right way.’’
Laughton was a first-round (20th overall) draft pick way back in 2012 and actually made his debut in the 2012-13 season, making him one of the longest-tenured players on the team.
The past couple years, he’s become one of the team’s vocal leaders.
“Last year and this year I’ve definitely felt more comfortable in my role,’’ he said. “Speaking up a little bit. I’m going to continue to be the same player every day.
“It (the new contract) felt good. With the new coaching staff and kind of new regime here, the negotiations didn’t take long. I want to be in Philly. This is my second home for sure.’’