If the Brandon Wheat Kings can get their newest import draft pick in uniform, he shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to North American hockey.
Russian defenceman Ivan Provorov, 17, was selected by the Wheat Kings in the first round of Wednesday’s Canadian Hockey League import draft. He’s already spent the past three years on this side of the ocean, playing for the United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders last season.
"Ivan was a player that we had a lot of interest in, and selecting 30, you’re not certain that he’ll be there, so that part we were happy about," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "He’s a good player that’s played in North America for three years, so I think that’s going to ease the transition for him. He played last year in the USHL so that’s a good league for him to play in as a 16-year-old, so I think that he’ll be a pretty good defenceman."
A 6-foot-0, 193-pound native of Yaroslavl, Provorov played 56 games in his first season of junior hockey with Cedar Rapids last season, producing six goals, 13 assists and 32 penalty minutes, with a plus/minus of -6.
"He plays a two-way game. He’s a pretty complete player," McCrimmon said. "He’s described to us as a mature player, a guy that’s able to play a lot of situations."
When Provorov arrived in Cedar Rapids last fall, the 2015 NHL draft-eligible player told the Cedar Rapids Gazette he planned to stay there for two years and go to college, but he left the RoughRiders late in the season to return to Russia and play for his country in the world under-18 championship. Although Provorov played in the USHL last season, Brandon must still negotiate his transfer through the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia.
The Wheat Kings already have two imports on their roster — wingers Richard Nejezchleb from the Czech Republic and Rihards Bukarts from Latvia — but were allowed to draft a third as Nejezchleb is entering his 20-year-old season and eligible to play professionally.
Chosen by the New York Rangers in the fifth round of the NHL draft on Saturday, it’s unknown if Nejezchleb will be signed by the Rangers and assigned to their farm team or returned to Brandon for one more season in the Western Hockey League. With Bukarts expected back in Brandon this season, the Wheat Kings would be forced to trade or release one of their imports if Provorov reports and Nejezchleb is returned.
ONE-TIMERS: Before joining Cedar Rapids, Provorov played bantam and midget hockey with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights, the same program Wheat Kings G prospect Evan Robert played for last season … The OHL’s Sarnia Knights took Czech C Pavel Zacha with the first pick of the draft, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes were the first WHL team to choose, selecting Russian LW Nikita Milekhin.