April 15, 1983 |
Kalinin, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight||230 lb (104 kg; 16 st 6 lb)|
|New Jersey Devils
Spartak Moscow (Rus-2)
Ak Bars Kazan (RSL)
Khimik Moscow Oblast (RSL)
SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL)
|NHL Draft||1st overall, 2001
Ilya Valeryevich Kovalchuk (Russian: Илья́ Вале́рьевич Ковальчу́к; born April 15, 1983) is a Russian professional ice hockey left winger who is an alternate captain of the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League (NHL). Drafted first overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, he began his NHL career in 2001–02 with Atlanta and was nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy as league rookie-of-the-year. He is a three-time NHL All-Star and won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer in 2004 in a three-way tie with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash. After eight seasons with the Thrashers, he was traded to the Devils in February 2010, and later signed a 15-year, $100 million contract during the off-season after a 17-year, $102 million was rejected by the league.
Internationally, Kovalchuk has played for Russia in the IIHF World U18 Championship, World Junior Championship, World Championship, World Cup and Winter Olympics, highlighted by back-to-back gold medals in the 2008 and 2009 World Championship.
Playing career 
Early career 
Kovalchuk played for Russian Super League club HC Spartak Moscow for two seasons before entering the NHL. Drafted by the Thrashers first overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, he became the first Russian to be drafted first overall in the NHL's history. In club-level competition, Kovalchuk wore the number 17 as a tribute to Valeri Kharlamov, a Soviet superstar in the 1970s.
Atlanta Thrashers 
Entering his NHL rookie season in 2001–02, Kovalchuk scored 29 goals and 51 points despite missing 17 games with a season-ending shoulder injury. He finished second in voting to teammate Dany Heatley for the Calder Trophy as league rookie of the year. Both were named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. After improving to 38 goals and 67 points in his second season, Kovalchuk scored 41 goals in 2003–04, making him a co-winner of the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy after tying for the league lead in goals with Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also added 46 assists for 87 points, tying him with Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche for second in the league that season, behind Martin St. Louis. Kovalchuk also participated in his first NHL All-Star Game in 2004.
Due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Kovalchuk returned to Russia, playing for both Ak Bars Kazan and Khimik Moscow Oblast of the Russian Superleague. After the lockout, Kovalchuk returned to the Thrashers and scored 52 goals, tying him with rookie Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for third in the league in scoring (behind Jonathan Cheechoo of the San Jose Sharks (56), and Jaromír Jágr of the New York Rangers (54)). He also tied his career-high of 46 assists for a career-high 98 points, leading the Thrashers in team scoring for the second consecutive season, while finishing eighth overall in league scoring. He also became the first Thrashers player to score 50 goals in a season.
In the 2006–07 NHL season, Kovalchuk's point production dropped for the first time in his career. He finished with 42 goals and 34 assists for 76 points. During a game against the Nashville Predators during the season on January 11, 2006, Predators coach Barry Trotz accused Kovalchuk with "always [playing] with an illegal stick." Trotz had asked the referees to check Kovalchuk's stick following a Thrashers goal, but claimed that Kovalchuk was able to switch his stick before the referees could check. Despite his drop in production on the season, Kovalchuk and the Thrashers qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Kovalchuk scored one goal and one assist in his NHL playoffs debut as the team lost in the opening round to the New York Rangers in four games.
In 2007–08, Kovalchuk scored two consecutive hat tricks in a loss to the Ottawa Senators and a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 1 and 3, 2007, respectively. Later that season, on January 23, 2008, Kovalchuk was suspended for one game by the NHL for a hit from behind on New York Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsíval in a game a day prior. He finished with his second 52-goal season in three years, along with 35 assists for 87 points.
With the departure of Bobby Holik to the New Jersey Devils in the 2008 off-season, the Thrashers' captaincy remained vacant for the first half of the 2008–09 season. Kovalchuk served as one of five alternate captains to start the season until the alternates collectively requested to general manager Don Waddell and coach John Anderson for Kovalchuk to take over the captaincy. Soon thereafter, on January 11, 2009, Kovalchuk was named Holik's successor and the sixth team captain in Thrashers' history during the team's Casino Night charity event. The announcement came amidst speculation that the Thrashers were looking to trade Kovalchuk with his contract set to expire at the end of the following season. Kovalchuk completed his first season as team captain with 43 goals for his fifth consecutive 40-goal season and 91 points.
Near the beginning of the 2009–10 season, Kovalchuk scored the 300th and 301st goal of his NHL career in a 4–2 win during the St. Louis Blues' home opener on October 8, 2009. He was leading the league in goals several weeks into the season when he suffered a broken foot after blocking shot in a game against the San Jose Sharks on October 24.
New Jersey Devils 
In the final year of his contract, Kovalchuk and the Thrashers could not come to an agreement on an extension. Thrashers general manager Don Waddell reportedly offered 12-year, $101 million and seven-year, $70 million contracts, both of which Kovalchuk turned down. Rather than potentially losing him to unrestricted free agency in the off-season, Kovalchuk was traded on February 4, 2010, to the New Jersey Devils. Atlanta received defenceman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas Bergfors and junior prospect Patrice Cormier, and a first round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Kovalchuk and defenceman Anssi Salmela; the teams also traded second round selections in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Kovalchuk recorded two assists the following day in his Devils' debut, a 4–3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 5. Kovalchuk eventually ended the season with 41 goals along with 44 assists, for 85 points split between Atlanta and New Jersey. On February 10, 2011, Kovalchuk scored the game-winning goal in a game over the Toronto Maple Leafs to give Jacques Lemaire the 600th win of his coaching career.
Ilya Kovalchuk recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick – a goal, an assist, and a fight – on February 4, 2012, the two-year anniversary of his trade to the Devils, against the Philadelphia Flyers. This was the first such hat trick ever recorded by Kovalchuk and second in the Devils' franchise, following Adam Henrique the month before. Kovalchuk assisted on two goals by teammate Kurtis Foster, scored a short-handed goal, then fought Brayden Schenn after a scrum formed when Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo performed a slew-foot on Devils captain Zach Parise.
On March 8, Kovalchuk's 13th career hat trick and 2nd hat trick as a New Jersey Devil was recorded. The Devils won 5–1 against the New York Islanders, with Ilya being the first star of the night.
On March 20, Kovalchuk became the 87th player in NHL history to score 400 goals. It was the lone goal of a 1–0 victory over the Ottawa Senators. He was given third star of the night.
Kovalchuk ended the 2011–12 season with seven game-deciding shootout goals, and eleven shootout goals in total, setting a new record in both categories. The league first introduced shootouts in 2005. Kovalchuk and the Devils won the 2011–12 Eastern Conference finals against the New York rangers in 6 games, setting a Stanley Cup meeting with the Los Angeles Kings. Despite leading the playoffs in scoring through the first three rounds, Kovalchuk was playing with a herniated disc and was largely ineffective against the Kings, scoring just one point in the series, an empty-net goal in Game 4, as the Devils fell to the Kings in six games.
Kovalchuk became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2010. On July 19, after receiving offers from other teams, Kovalchuk agreed to a 17-year, $102 million deal to remain with the Devils. The length of the deal broke the record for the longest contract in NHL history. However, the contract was rejected by the NHL the next day, on the grounds that it circumvented the league's salary cap. Arbitrator Richard Bloch heard the union's appeal, and nullified the deal.
Another contract was submitted to the NHL. During the early morning hours of September 4, 2010, the league approved the contract along with a new agreement with the NHLPA. The contract is a 15-year, $100 million deal.
Consequently, the NHL penalized the Devils for trying to circumvent the NHL salary cap with Kovalchuk's original contract. As a result, the Devils surrendered $3 million, a third round draft choice in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and one future first round draft choice within the next four seasons. The Devils decided to use their first round draft pick in the 2011 and 2012 NHL Entry Drafts, and are still required to surrender a first round pick (in either 2013 or 2014).
As a result of the 2012–2013 season lockout of the NHL, Kovalchuk elected to sign a temporary contract with SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL on September 18, 2012. Kovalchuk played in Russia until a labor agreement was reached between the NHLPA and the NHL in January. Kovalchuk was named captain of SKA Saint Petersburg at his contract signing. In addition, Kovalchuk was the subject of criticism for not returning to the United States immediately after the lockout ended, instead electing to be one of two participating NHL players in the KHL All Star Game (the other being Pavel Datsyuk). Kovalchuk served as the captain of the Western Conference and returned to the United States to the Devils' training camp immediately after.
International play 
|Competitor for Russia|
|Bronze||2002 Salt Lake City|
|IIHF World U18 Championships|
Kovalchuk won his first medals with Russia in a major international event at the IIHF World U18 Championships, earning silver and gold medals in 2000 and 2001, respectively. He also competed for Russia at the World Junior Championships in 2001, but finished seventh.
The following year, Kovalchuk made his senior international debut with Russia at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, during his rookie NHL season with the Atlanta Thrashers. He recorded three points in six games to help Russia to a bronze medal finish. He then made his World Championships debut in 2003, but failed to medal.
Kovalchuk made his second straight Winter Olympics appearance in 2006 in Turin. He had a four-goal game on February 19 in a 9–2 win over Latvia, but returned to Atlanta without a medal, losing in the bronze medal game.
In 2008 Kovalchuk played in the IIHF World Championship, held in Quebec City, Canada. He scored his only two goals of the tournament in the gold medal game against Team Canada – once to force the game into overtime, then the game-winner to give Russia the championship. The following year, he led Russia to a second straight gold medal over Canada in the 2009 IIHF World Championship and was named the tournament MVP.
In May 2010, Kovalchuk played for Russia in the 74th IIHF WC in Germany, finishing second.
Played for Russia in:
- 2002 Winter Olympics (bronze)
- 2003 World Championships
- 2004 World Cup of Hockey
- 2005 World Championships (bronze)
- 2006 Winter Olympics
- 2007 World Championships (bronze)
- 2008 World Championships (gold)
- 2009 World Championships (gold)
- 2010 Winter Olympics
- 2010 World Championships (silver)
- 2011 World Championships
Awards and achievements 
- 2002 NHL YoungStars Game – (MVP)
- NHL All-Rookie Team – 2002
- NHL First All-Star Team – 2012
- NHL Second All-Star Team – 2004
- NHL All-Star Game – 2004, 2008, 2009
- KHL All-Star Game – 2012
- 2003-04 NHL Season – Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy – (41*) (tied with 2 others)
- 2003-04 NHL Season – Kharlamov Trophy (Top Russian Player in the NHL)
- 2011–12 NHL Season – NHL Leader in Shootout Goals (11)
- 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Goal Scoring Leader (8) (tied)
- 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs – Prince of Wales Trophy winner with the New Jersey Devils
- (IIHF) 2008 World Championship – Gold Medal
- (IIHF) 2009 World Championship – Gold Medal
- (IIHF) 2009 World Championship – (MVP)
- (IIHF) 2010 World Championship – Leading Scorer (Points) (12)
- (IIHF) 2013 World Championship – Goal Scoring Leader (8) (tied)
- 2014 Winter Olympics ambassador for Russia
- 2011–12 NHL Season – NHL Record for most Shootout Goals in a single-season (11)
- 2011–12 NHL Season – NHL Record for most Game-deciding shootout Goals in a single-season (7)
- Atlanta Thrashers franchise single season goal total, 52 (2005–06, 2007–08)
Career statistics 
Regular season and playoffs 
Bolded numbers indicate season/ playoff leader
|2004–05||Ak Bars Kazan||RSL||53||19||23||42||72||4||0||1||1||0|
|2005–06||Khimik Moscow Oblast||RSL||11||8||5||13||24||—||—||—||—||—|
|2009–10||New Jersey Devils||NHL||27||10||17||27||8||5||2||4||6||6|
|2010–11||New Jersey Devils||NHL||81||31||29||60||28||—||—||—||—||—|
|2011–12||New Jersey Devils||NHL||77||37||46||83||33||23||8||11||19||6|
|2012–13||SKA St. Petersburg||KHL||36||18||24||42||12||—||—||—||—||—|
|2012–13||New Jersey Devils||NHL||37||11||20||31||18||—||—||—||—||—|
|Junior int'l totals||19||17||9||26||69|
|Senior int'l totals||88||31||44||75||139|
All-Star Games 
- "NHLPA PLAYER BIO: Ilya Kovalchuk". Retrieved 2006-09-13.
- Larry Wigge (2001). "Few doubts surround top pick Kovalchuk – National Hockey League Draft, hockey player Ilya Kovalchuk". The Sporting News. Retrieved 2006-09-23.
- "Thrashers 4, Predators 3, SO". USA Today. 2006-04-18. Retrieved 2006-09-23.
- "Thrashers' Kovalchuk suspended for one game". NHL. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-23.[dead link]
- "Call him 'captain' Kovalchuk now". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- "Atlanta Thrashers at St Louis Blues Game Recap". Nhl.com. 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- "Thrashers lose Kovalchuk, second straight game". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 2009-10-24. Retrieved 2009-10-29.
- Diamos, Jason (2005-08-24). "Thrashers trade Heatley to Senators for Hossa". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
- TSN (2010-02-04). "Thrashers ship Kovalchuk to Devils for players, 1st Rounder". The Sports Network. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
- "Devils storm back late to down Leafs in Kovalchuk's debut". The Sports Network. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- "Lemaire reaches 600 wins in Devils edge Leafs". CNN.
- "Ilya Kovalchuk had a Gordie Howe hat trick". Prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- Kevin Hoffman/US Presswire. "Ilya Kovalchuk surprised to get pass for first hat trick with Devils". NJ.com. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- "A final statistical look at 2011–12 regular season". NHL.com. 2010-04-02. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- "Kovalchuk gets 17-year deal from Devils". ESPN. 2010-07-19. Retrieved 2010-07-19.
- "Reports: Arbitrator rules in NHL's favor". National Hockey League. 2010-08-09. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- "Reports: Kovy deal registered as NHL, NHLPA reach settlement". 2010-09-04. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
- "Kovalchuk going to SKA St. Petersburg". ESPN. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- "Kovalchuk named MVP". IIHF. 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
- Russian National Hockey Team named ambassador to the 2014 Winter Olympics. – accessed 8 June 2009[dead link]
- Ilya Kovalchuk's career statistics at The Internet Hockey Database
- Ilya Kovalchuk – player profile and career stats at European Hockey.Net
- Ilya Kovalchuk's player profile at NHL.com
|NHL first overall draft pick
|Atlanta Thrashers first round draft pick
|(Co)Winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy
(with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash)
|Atlanta Thrashers captain