Promising young defenseman Ivan Provorov has decided to leave the team and return to Russia to tryout for the national Under-18 World Championship team.
"It is a decision that he and his father made," RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson said. "It is what it is."
The timing of Provorov's departure is stunning, considering the Riders have just four regular-season games left. They have a likely first-round playoff series against Dubuque that would begin the first week of April.
Carlson spent a pre-draft tender last spring to bring in Provorov, 17, from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Junior Penguins in Pennsylvania. The Yaroslavl, Russia, resident played in 56 games this season, recording six goals and 13 assists.
He is considered a potential high-round pick in next year's National Hockey League draft.
"I like Ivan a lot as a kid. He's a great kid, and we loved having him here," said RoughRider Judd Peterson. "It obviously doesn't feel good. We would have liked to have (kept) him. But his dad made the decision to make his career better, they think. It sucks, especially when you have a teammate all year and he leaves at the end ... But that's the decision they made."
"Our focus is on the six guys we have here," Carlson said of his remaining defensemen. "We don't plan on missing a beat."
Carlson said Provorov informed him he was returning to Russia after the team arrived home from a 3-1 win last Saturday night at Dubuque. He cleaned out his locker and said goodbye to teammates Monday.
"It's just a choice his dad made," said RoughRiders assistant captain Dylan Steman. "Just going to try not to look at it too much. Just look forward. We'll be fine. We've battled adversity before, and we'll do it again."
"When someone bails on you, it kind of hurts a little bit," Peterson said. "But, like I said, he's a great kid. I don't want to criticize him and say that he's a horrible kid and everything. He's a great kid. Whatever him and his dad felt like they had to do, they did. I guess this is the way they want to go."
Carlson said he expects veteran defenseman Nathan Widman to return to the lineup this coming weekend when Cedar Rapids travels to Youngstown for two games. He has been out with an injury.
Other defensemen on the roster are Logan Von Ruden, Charlie Curti, Mark Auk, Clark Kuster and Scott Moldenhauer. Carlson said there is the possibility someone from the team's affiliate roster of younger players could be called up to help out.
He was asked if this seals Provorov's fate as far as returning next season. Longtime speculation has Provorov heading to Canada to play Major Junior hockey, though he said a month ago he would be back in Cedar Rapids.
He also could decide to play at home in Russia.
"That is something the team would have to decide," Carlson said. "As far as if they would want him to return."