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With Provorov Out of the Equation, How Will the Flyers Make Up Those Crucial Minutes?

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

Although it was beneficial for both sides to seek a separation, the Philadelphia Flyers are going to enter the 2023-24 season without their minute-munching defenseman in Ivan Provorov for the first time since 2015-16.

His presence, durability, and ability to play upwards of 23 to 24 minutes a night won’t be easy to replace or replicate. It’s going to have to be a team effort from the committee – a committee that is filled with either inexperienced, middling, or over-the-hump players.

During his rookie season in 2016-17, Provorov averaged what is still his career-low in ATOI at 21:59 in 82 games. In 2o17-18 it went up to 24:09 and then in 2018-19 it went up to a still career-high of 25:07. In 2019-20 he averaged 24:51, in 2020-21 he averaged 25:00 on the dot, in 2021-22 he averaged 24:53, and this past season was his lowest totals since his rookie year at 23:01.

Over his 7-year career in Philadelphia, Provorov averaged 24:05 TOI and only missed 3 games in that entire span – all due to COVID related issues. As for total minuted iced, Provorov amassed 12,807.9 minutes in 532 games:

2016-17: 1802.2 minutes of which 139.2 were on the power play and 231.3 while shorthanded

2017-18: 1981 minutes of which 143.3 were on the power play and 226.2 while shorthanded

2018-19: 2057.4 minutes of which 126.4 were on the power play and 251.5 while shorthanded

2019-20: 1714.2 minutes of which 216.1 were on the power play and 188.4 while shorthanded

2020-21: 1399.9 minutes of which 133.9 were on the power play and 160.1 while shorthanded

2021-22: 1966.4 minutes of which 177.5 were on the power play and 210.9 while shorthanded

2022-23: 1887.9 minutes of which 65.7 were on the power play and 221.6 while shorthanded

Comparing Ivan Provorov’s minutes to the rest of his counterparts:


Ivan Provorov: 1802 minutes/21:59 ATOI (82 games)
Shayne Gostisbehere: 1489 minutes/19:36 ATOI (76 games)
Andrew MacDonald: 1468 minutes/20:06 ATOI (73 games)
Radko Gudas: 1293 minutes/19:18 ATOI (67 games)
Brandon Manning: 1174 minutes/18:03 ATOI (65 games)


Ivan Provorov: 1981 minutes/24:09 ATOI (82 games)
Shayne Gostisbehere: 1674 minutes/21:27 ATOI (78 games)
Andrew MacDonald: 1310 minutes/19:51 ATOI (66 games)
Robert Hägg: 1270 minutes/18:08 ATOI (70 games)
Radko Gudas: 1197 minutes/17:06 ATOI (70 games)


Ivan Provorov: 2059 minutes/25:07 ATOI (82 games)
Travis Sanheim: 1604 minutes/19:34 ATOI (82 games)
Shayne Gostisbehere: 1533 minutes/19:40 ATOI (78 games)
Robert Hägg: 1390 minutes/16:57 ATOI (82 games)
Radko Gudas: 1376 minutes/17:53 ATOI (77 games)


Ivan Provorov: 1714 minutes/24:51 ATOI (69 games)
Matt Niskanen: 1490 minutes/21:54 ATOI (68 games)
Travis Sanheim: 1391 minutes/20:09 ATOI (69 games)
Justin Braun: 1071 minutes/17:16 ATOI (62 games)
Phil Myers: 855 minutes/17:06 ATOI (50 games)


Ivan Provorov: 1400 minutes/25:00 ATOI (56 games)
Travis Sanheim: 1204 minutes/21:53 ATOI (55 games)
Justin Braun: 982 minutes/18:32 ATOI (53 games)
Phil Myers: 830 minutes/18:52 ATOI (44 games)
Shayne Gostisbehere: 818 minutes/19:56 ATOI (41 games)


Ivan Provorov: 1966 minutes/24:53 ATOI (79 games)
Travis Sanheim: 1838 minutes/22:58 ATOI (80 games)
Rasmus Ristolainen: 1415 minutes/21:26 ATOI (66 games)
Justin Braun: 1222 minutes/20:02 ATOI (61 games)
Keith Yandle: 1076 minutes/13:59 ATOI (77 games)


Ivan Provorov: 1888 minutes/23:01 ATOI (82 games)
Travis Sanheim: 1653 minutes/20:24 ATOI (81 games)
Tony DeAngelo: 1544 minutes/22:04 ATOI (70 games)
Rasmus Ristolainen: 1408 minutes/19:01 ATOI (74 games)
Nick Seeler: 1116 minutes/14:29 ATOI (77 games)

As we can tell by the lists above, Provorov was always the top option for the Flyers in every situation and towered over the rest of his counterparts on a yearly basis in terms of minutes played and average ice time per game. Obviously that shouldn’t come as a total surprise since he had that label all over him the moment he was drafted 7th overall by Ron Hextall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. For whatever reason, the Flyers failed to help out their 1D and weren’t able to either give him a reliable partner or a decent-to-good defensive corps throughout his time in Philadelphia.

Andrew MacDonald spent a lot of time with Provorov on the ice, Robert Hägg had his moments in the sun, and Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Braun had their opportunities on the top pair but it never seemed to work out – or work out long enough. Tony DeAngelo started off the season terrifically alongside Provorov but then got caught out of position several times and drew the ire of his head coach to a point where he found himself on the third pair.

Matt Niskanen was the one-season-wonder that made Provorov’s game reach it’s apex back in 2019-20, something he was never able to replicate after Niskanen’s retirement. Ryan Ellis was brought in the summer of 2021 to take over that role but he was limited to 4 games and might never see the ice again.

The Flyers made several moves this summer to address their depth and subsequently their NHL starting roster. As we head into the 2023-24 season, the Flyers have a glut of defenseman that include Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam York, Nick Seeler, Mark Staal, Sean Walker, Victor Mete and potentially prospects in Ronnie Attard, Egor Zamula, and Emil Andrae.

Right now, you can most likely staple Cam York, Travis Sanheim, and Rasmus Ristolainen as the three wise men of the defense corps, and after them you can make your own guesses and assumptions.

After the terrific 2022-23 season we witnessed from Nick Seeler, it would be surprising if he wasn’t a part of the top-6. Marc Staal has over 1,100 regular season games of NHL experience and is coming off a run to the Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Florida Panthers, Sean Walker had a down season after a few good years with the Los Angeles Kings, Victor Mete has been around the NHL, and then there’s the 3 prospects who we’ve been told will have every chance in the world to win a roster spot.

People believe that the “stubborn” and “hard-headed” John Tortorella won’t play his prospects and will feature the likes of Staal, Walker, and potentially Mete no matter what. That might’ve been the old Tortorella from his days in New York, Vancouver, and Columbus, but he has been rather staunch about the Flyers needing to build from the ground up, get younger and faster, and that roster spots aren’t guaranteed for anyone – especially wily veterans.

He wasn’t really afforded the full opportunity to play his young prospects last year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ playoff push, but whenever they featured in the lineup, they were given great opportunities to succeed like Tyson Foerster or Elliot Desnoyers.

This year should be no different and we already know that training camp has provided to be the final battleground for his decisions. If the prospects in Attard, Zamula, and Andrae can’t overshadow or beat out players like Walker, Staal, and Mete, then maybe they aren’t ready just yet. I find it hard to believe that none of the aforementioned trio of prospects makes it on the opening night roster, although it might be tough to feature 2-3. However at some point this year, the Flyers will feature plenty of youthful players either due to injury or performance, so if they do start out with the Phantoms, it’s not the end of the world, it just means they have to work on their craft.

With the defensemen they have at their disposal, none of them have really played the minutes that Provorov played on a regular basis except for Rasmus Ristolainen from his days in Buffalo, Marc Staal in his early New York days, and at times Travis Sanheim over the past 2-3 seasons. Sanheim has averaged 20:19 ATOI in his 6 years in the league, with 22:58 being the most in a season. In 416 games, he has played 8451.6 minutes with only 296.9 on the power play and 641.1 while shorthanded.

Ristolainen averaged 23:53 in his 8 seasons with Buffalo with 3 straight years of 25+ minutes, including back-to-back seasons where he eclipsed 26:28. In his 2 seasons with the Flyers he has averaged 20:10 for a grand total of 23:07 over the course of his 10-year career. In totality he has iced 15112.4 minutes in his career (2822.9 with the Flyers), 1530 minutes on the power play (102 with the Flyers), and 1486.2 while shorthanded (284.4 with the Flyers).

York has only 87 games under his belt but has a total of 1692.6 minutes, which is good for an average of 19:27 ATOI. In his 3 stints with the Flyers he has never seen les than 19:05 ATOI with that being reached back in 2021-22, while playing in 30 games. In 3 games in 2020-21 he averaged 19:47 and this past season in 54 games he averaged 19:39 TOI.

Seeler has 5 seasons under his belt with 3 different teams. With the Minnesota Wild he averaged 12:42 in 99 games in parts of 3 seasons, with the Chicago Blackhawks he averaged 13:32 in 6 games, and with the Flyers he has averaged 13:59 in 120 games. He has 3016.6 minutes in totality (1678.1 with the Flyers) with 188 while shorthanded (111.9 with the Flyers).

Staal is the seasoned veteran of the bunch as he enters his 17th season in the NHL. In 13 years with the New York Rangers, Staal averaged 20:37 TOI with his career-high being 25:44 back in 2010-11. In 2 years with the Detroit Red Wings he averaged 17:51 TOI, and last year with the Florida Panthers he averaged 18:12 TOI. In 1101 games he has 20672.3 minutes played with 2674.4 of those coming while shorthanded.

Walker has averaged 16:54 TOI in his 5 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings with 3 straight years – a span of 123 games – where he eclipsed 18:10 TOI (between 2019-20 and 2021-22). In 232 games, Walker has amassed 3922.4 minutes on the ice with 227.7 coming while shorthanded and 161.7 on the power play. Last year in 70 games he averaged a career-low 14:50.

Then you also have Mete, who has averaged 16:04 TOI in 247 games across 6 seasons, Attard who in just 17 games with the Flyers has averaged 16:37 TOI, and Zamula who has averaged 14:48 TOI in 26 games across 3 seasons.

With both Provorov and DeAngelo gone from the 2022-23 season, the Flyers are missing over 3,432 minutes of ice time and over 22 minutes a night from each player, which includes power play and penalty killing duties. The Flyers are going to rely heavily upon Sanheim, Ristolainen, and York moving forward while hoping that whoever rounds out the top-6 can eat sufficient amount of minutes.

After averaging only 20:24 last season, Sanheim should look to replicate his 2021-22 season where he was on the ice for almost 23 minutes a night (22:58). After playing a career-low 19:01 a game last year, Ristolainen’s true potential was unlocked where he looked like one of the better defenders on the team and was actually a force offensively as well. He should be relied upon for 20-21 minutes a night moving forward.

Which leaves us with Cam York, who should be the top-dog at some point this season. While he has averaged 19+ a night throughout his 87 games, he played top pair duties last year with Provorov and should exceed all his previous totals heading into 2023-24. He should feature on the power play, effectively replacing DeAngelo on the top unit, and will be relied upon for top-4 duties on even strength at the very least. This is finally his time to shine after spending parts of the past 2 seasons with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms – including starting 2022-23 in the minors.

It’s going to have to be a team effort, and while the glut of defensemen at their disposal doesn’t give out much confidence or support for their goaltenders, we need to remind ourselves that we are in the beginning stages of this rebuild. The trying times that have been prevalent over the last 3-4 seasons without any purpose will continue, but this time it will revolve around the rebuild that we’ve been waiting for. No matter who is between the pipes, they’re going to struggle with the defensemen in front of them as the Flyers have technically gotten weaker on defense compared to last year – a year in which they finished 22nd out of 32 teams in goals against.

Players will be thrusted into positions they’ve never played in before, or at the very least have very little experience with. Some of the defensemen are going to have to play outside of their comfort zone as the Flyers will look to experiment not just at 5-on-5, but also with the man advantage and while shorthanded.

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