Most of the lists I've seen for the upcoming draft have the same five guys at the top: Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Noah Hanifin, Mitch Marner, and Dylan Strome. Although Bob McKenzie has Ivan Provorov eighth on his list, I think Provorov is more likely than any other player to sneak past one or more of those players and into the draft's top five. In fact, notable sources like McKeen's Hockey and Craig Button have Provorov in their top five (ahead of Strome and Hanifin respectively). A quick look at Provorov's comparables will show why Provorov's knocking at the door.
In this case, a comparable player was someone who played his draft year in the CHL, had an adjusted points per game rate between 0.88 and 1.07 (90% to 110% of Provorov's offensive production), and was selected somewhere between 3rd and 13th overall. A player with similar goal-scoring is highlighted in blue.
This is a very encouraging list. Every one of these players has had success at the NHL level, and the vast majority have played or will play significant minutes for several seasons. In the chart below, I've listed each player's number of regular season games, his time on ice per game (if the NHL was recording TOI for more than half of the games he played), his points per game, and the first season he played in at least forty games.
Everyone here has passable offense and everyone is being counted on to play significant minutes. Even the bustiest players (Boynton and Eminger) managed over 400 games in the NHL; at the other end, there's a very good chance that half of these players eventually make it to 1,000 games, and that a handful join Scott Niedermayer in the Hall of Fame.
That kind of high-performance longevity is possible at least in part because the vast majority (13 of 15) were ready to contribute at the NHL level by their Draft +3 season. In a capped league where the countdown to unrestricted free agency begins in a player's Draft +3 season no matter where he plays, the ability to contribute at the NHL level by that time provides the drafting team with excellent value.
So is there any reason to doubt Provorov? I don't think it qualifies as a major down arrow, but I did want to note that the position seems to be changing at the junior level. If we look at the fifty best adjusted points per game seasons from defensemen drafted in their first year of eligibility and inside the top thirty picks, we see many more offensive defenders popping up in the last ten years.
There are, of course, a lot of recent draftees on Provorov's list of comparables, and many of them are doing well. But this kind of shift toward a more offensive style is good to note because it will inevitably result in some CHL players with excellent numbers not being able to make the jump to pro hockey effectively. Cam Barker, who missed being a comparable for Provorov because he scored too much, is an example of this kind of player.
Nevertheless, Provorov is both a very safe pick and a player with the potential to blossom into a superstar. That he might be available outside the top five is a testament to the strength of this year's class.
Next up this afternoon: Timo Meier