Alexei Vyacheslavovich Kovalev (Russian: Алексей Вячеславович Ковалёв, Russian pronunciation: [ɐlʲɪˈksʲej vʲɪtɕɪˈsɫavəvʲɪtɕ kəvɐˈlʲɵf]; born February 24, 1973) is a Russian professional ice hockey executive and former player. He is currently serving as sports director for EHC Visp of the Swiss League.
Kovalev with the Penguins during the 2011 playoffs
February 24, 1973|
Tolyatti, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Height||6 ft 2 in (188 cm)|
|Weight||222 lb (101 kg; 15 st 12 lb)|
New York Rangers
Ak Bars Kazan
Atlant Moscow Oblast
Unified Team and|
15th overall, 1991|
New York Rangers
During his career, he played in over 1,300 National Hockey League (NHL) games over 18 seasons for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Florida Panthers. He was originally drafted by the Rangers and won a Stanley Cup with them in 1994.
Kovalev was drafted by the New York Rangers in the first round, 15th overall, of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. He became the first Russian-born player to be drafted in the first round in the history of the NHL as well as the first Soviet player to be drafted in the first round. Best known for his stickhandling skills, deking ability and wrist shot, he became an important part of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup run, finishing with the third-most points for New York in the 1994 playoffs. Kovalev, Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov and Sergei Zubov were the first Russians to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. The Rangers' Stanley Cup win is well remembered in Europe because of the first Russian names on the Stanley Cup, as MSG Network broadcaster Al Trautwig said in his essay, Garden of Dreams.
During the 1994–95 NHL lockout, Kovalev returned to Russia to play for his hometown team Lada Togliatti, the defending International Hockey League champion from 1994. Kovalev scored eight goals and eight assists in 12 games. He occasionally stops in Tolyatti to give clinics at his old hockey school. He also participated in Lada Togliatti's 30th anniversary game, and scored a hat-trick for the Lada veterans team.
Just 14 games into the 1998–99 season, on November 25, 1998, Kovalev was traded, along with Harry York, to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Petr Nedvěd, Sean Pronger and Chris Tamer. While only putting up 46 points in 63 games with the Penguins, he managed a strong effort with 12 points in 10 post-season games. In the next two seasons, he recorded two of his best seasons in the NHL with 76 and 95 points, respectively.
In a trade to mainly reduce their salary, Pittsburgh sent Kovalev back to the Rangers on February 10, 2003. He was sent, along with Dan LaCouture, Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson, for Mikael Samuelsson, Rico Fata, Joel Bouchard, Richard Lintner and cash.
On March 13, 2004, Kovalev was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Jozef Balej and a second-round draft pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. While only managing three points in 12 games in the regular season, Kovalev broke out in the 2004 playoffs, registering six goals and ten points in 11 games.
Kovalev spent the 2004–05 NHL lockout playing for Ak Bars Kazan, in the Russian Superleague (RSL), where he registered 23 points in 35 games. He then played for Russia at the 2005 World Championships in Austria, and was named the tournament's best forward.
As an unrestricted free agent, Kovalev opted to re-sign with Montreal on a four-year contract paying $4.5 million annually just prior to the start of the 2005–06 season, on August 3. He scored his 300th career goal and recorded his 700th point on December 20, 2005, against Dominik Hašek in a 4–3 win against the Ottawa Senators.
In 2006, Warrior signed Kovalev to endorse their hockey sticks. Warrior designed a custom shaft known as the AK27.
In 2007, Kovalev sparked controversy when he allegedly criticized his team, coaching staff and the Montreal media in an interview with a Russian reporter in his native language. Though the reporter who conducted the interview later rescinded Kovalev's quotes, and the tape she used never surfaced, a majority of the fans and members of the media believe the criticism to have actually happened. This story was especially controversial due to the poor performance by Kovalev in the 2006–07 season, amassing only 18 goals, 29 assists for a total of 47 points.
During the 2007–08 season, Kovalev found a resurgence playing alongside linemates Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomáš Plekanec, recording a total of 35 goals, 49 assists for a total of 84 points in 82 games. As of the season's completion, he stood at the 94th spot of the top 100 all-time NHL scorers. Due to his inspired play, Kovalev was awarded the Canadiens' captaincy on two occasions during the season, replacing the injured Saku Koivu in his absence.
The following season, in 2008–09, Kovalev was named captain of the Eastern Conference at the 2009 NHL All-Star game in Montreal, and won Most Valuable Player honors as a result of his two goals, assist and game-winning shootout goal. Late in the season with the Canadiens, Kovalev scored his 100th goal with the club on March 31, 2009, against former teammate and Canadiens goaltender Cristobal Huet of the Chicago Blackhawks. At the end of the week, he was named the NHL's First Star for the Week ending April 5 after scoring two goals and seven assists, helping lead the Canadiens to three wins during that time.
On July 6, 2009, Kovalev signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Ottawa Senators as an unrestricted free agent. On December 25, 2009, Kovalev was excluded from the main roster for the Russian team for the 2010 Winter Olympics, to the surprise of fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin (though he was selected as a reserve by Team Russia in case an injury occurred during the tournament). On January 3, 2010, Kovalev scored a career-high four goals in a 7–4 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. 
On November 22, 2010, Kovalev netted his sixth goal of the season, scoring his 1,000th point in his career, notching the goal at exactly 10:00 of the first period against the Los Angeles Kings.
On February 24, 2011, his 38th birthday, Kovalev waived his no-trade clause to be traded back to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. The pick would have been upgraded to the sixth round if the Penguins had reached the second round of the playoffs, which they did not. At the time of the trade, the Penguins were without 12 of their regular players, including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
After failing to sign with an NHL team for the 2011–12 season, Kovalev returned to Russia to play with the Atlant Moscow Oblast in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In June 2012, he was released from the two-year deal he signed with Atlant Moscow Oblast, at which point he declared his desire to return to the NHL. "Hopefully, I'll find an NHL team," Kovalev told the Montreal Gazette.
After the 2012–13 NHL lockout, Kovalev was given a tryout by the Florida Panthers, eventually signing a one-year contract with the team. "You could see how talented they are and they want to be in this League. All I want to do is help them. …I know I can match anyone in this locker room. I can still play this game," Kovalev said about the Panthers. In his first game as a Panther, Kovalev scored a goal and recorded two assists, one of the latter of which was an assist on teammate Jonathan Huberdeau's first career NHL goal.
On March 21, 2013, Kovalev officially announced his retirement from professional hockey. At that point, he had not played for the Panthers since a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 22.
However, Kovalev's retirement lasted less than three months. Swiss National League B (NLB) team EHC Visp announced on June 10, 2013, that they had signed him to a one-year contract with an option for a second year. In his first and only season in the NLB, he appeared in 44 regular season games, notching 22 goals and 30 assists for 52 points and winning Swiss NLB championship.
On July 3, 2014, Kovalev again announced his retirement from professional hockey at the age of 41.
On January 30, 2016, Kovalev revealed that he has yet again considered a return to professional ice hockey in the NHL. He referenced Jaromír Jágr, who is of similar age to him as his reason to believe a comeback is possible. A team specifically mentioned was the Canadiens, however no team has reached out to him.
Kovalev made a return to professional ice hockey on October 18, 2016, playing again for EHC Visp, the team he has become general manager of, after forward William Rapuzzi became injured before the day of the game. Kovalev gathered an assist on a goal by Jon Rheault, and finished the game with 14 penalty minutes, after receiving a game misconduct and being ejected from the game in the third period, for a hit from behind. Kovalev had been taking part in team practices since the beginning of the season.
Awards and achievementsEdit
- NHL All-Star Game – 2001, 2003, 2009
- NHL Second All-Star Team – 2008
- NHL All-Star Game MVP Award – 2009
- The Hockey News – Saku Koivu Award (Comeback Player of the Year): 2008
- Stanley Cup champion – 1994 (New York Rangers)
- NHL's First Star of the Month – (February 2001)
- NHL's First Star of the Week – (March 30–April 5, 2009)
- NHL's Offensive Player of the Week – (November 6–12, 2000); (November 5–11, 2001).
- Molson Cup Award (monthly) winner – November 2005, November 2007 to February 2008.
- Molson Cup Award (season) winner – 2008
- First Russian/Soviet player to be drafted in the first round; 15th Overall, First Round, 1991
- First Russian player (along with Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Sergei Zubov) to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup;
- First Russian player to be a captain of an All-Star Team;
- Captain of the 2009 NHL Eastern Conference All-Star Team;
- Most Valuable Player of the 2009 NHL All-Star Game;
- November 23, 2010, recorded 1,000th (and 1,001st) career point(s) against the Los Angeles Kings, scoring a goal and an assist;
- Most NHL games played by a player born and trained in the Soviet Union (1,302).
Off the iceEdit
Kovalev is a licensed aircraft pilot. He is married to Eugenia Kovalev. He has two children Nikita and Ian Kovalev. His families history is scarce except for his step sister Adel Bukary and brother Maximilian Kovalev.
Kovalev is a prominent endorsee of Warrior Hockey, making use of their range of products as a trademark, which includes his own signature stick, the AK27. Kovalev was also pictured on the cover of EA Sports' NHL 95 scoring a goal on Kirk McLean of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. In October 2006, he unveiled the Kovy's Kids Suite at the Bell Centre to give children with heart conditions the opportunity to attend hockey games at the Bell Centre. In March 2008, Kovalev released a two-disc DVD titled My Hockey Tips and Training Methods. He donated 100 percent of the DVD sale profits to charities that promote cardiac care for children. At the age of eight, Kovalev himself was diagnosed with a heart disorder that prevented him from playing hockey for two years while he underwent treatment.
Regular season and playoffsEdit
|1990–91||Dynamo Moscow II||USSR III||21||16||9||25||20||—||—||—||—||—|
|1991–92||Dynamo Moscow II||CIS III||4||5||0||5||12||—||—||—||—||—|
|1992–93||New York Rangers||NHL||65||20||18||38||79||—||—||—||—||—|
|1993–94||New York Rangers||NHL||76||23||33||56||154||23||9||12||21||18|
|1994–95||New York Rangers||NHL||48||13||15||28||30||10||4||7||11||10|
|1995–96||New York Rangers||NHL||81||24||34||58||98||11||3||4||7||14|
|1996–97||New York Rangers||NHL||45||13||22||35||42||—||—||—||—||—|
|1997–98||New York Rangers||NHL||73||23||30||53||44||—||—||—||—||—|
|1998–99||New York Rangers||NHL||14||3||4||7||12||—||—||—||—||—|
|2002–03||New York Rangers||NHL||24||10||3||13||20||—||—||—||—||—|
|2003–04||New York Rangers||NHL||66||13||29||42||54||—||—||—||—||—|
|2004–05||Ak Bars Kazan||RSL||35||10||12||22||80||4||0||0||0||8|
|2011–12||Atlant Moscow Oblast||KHL||22||1||5||6||16||—||—||—||—|
|IHL & RSL totals||47||18||20||38||129||4||0||0||0||8|
|2002 Salt Lake City|
|Representing Unified Team|
|World Junior Championship|
|European Junior Championship|
- 2010 Winter Olympics (*reserve)
- June 23, 1991 — New York Rangers first-round draft choice (15th overall) in the NHL Entry Draft.
- November 25, 1998 — Traded by the New York Rangers, along with Harry York, to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Petr Nedvěd, Sean Pronger and Chris Tamer.
- February 10, 2003 — Traded by the Pittsburgh Penguins, along with Mike Wilson, Janne Laukkanen and Dan LaCouture, to the New York Rangers in exchange for Joel Bouchard, Richard Lintner, Rico Fata, Mikael Samuelsson and a fourth-round draft pick.
- March 2, 2004 — Traded by the New York Rangers to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Jozef Balej and Montreal's 2004 third-round draft choice.
- July 6, 2009 — Signed a two-year $9.95 million deal with the Ottawa Senators.
- February 24, 2011 — Traded by the Ottawa Senators to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Pittsburgh's conditional 7th round draft pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
- January 18, 2013 — Signed a one-year, $1 million (+300K signing bonus) contract with the Florida Panthers.
- "Hockey-Olympiasieger Kowalew ins Wallis!". blick.ch. June 10, 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
- Kalinsky, George (2004). Garden of Dreams. New York: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang. ISBN 1-58479-343-0.
- Montreal Canadiens Stats
- "Kovalev, Thornton named All-Star team captains". TSN.ca. January 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-14.
- "Canadiens put away Blackhawks". CBC. 2009-03-31. Archived from the original on 4 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- "Kovalev named NHL 1st star of the week". CBC. 2009-04-06. Archived from the original on 12 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- "KOVALEV SIGNS TWO-YEAR DEAL WITH SENATORS". The Sports Network. 2009-07-06. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2013-04-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Scaringi, Joe, "From Russia with Love" Archived 2010-02-20 at the Wayback Machine, 10 February 2010, accessed 21 June 2010.
- "Senators 7, Flyers 4". Associated Press. 2010-01-04. Archived from the original on 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
- "404". TSN. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- "Mike Comrie and Alex Kovalev won't be Penguins next season - ProHockeyTalk". ProHockeyTalk. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- Nicholas Goss. "NHL". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- NHL notes: Jackets listening to offers for No. 2 pick http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/2012/06/14/19879596.html
- "Alex Kovalev, Marek Svatos invited to Florida Panthers training camp". miamiherald. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- "Florida Panthers: Veteran Alex Kovalev signs". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- "Russian star Alex Kovalev hopes to supply firepower and advice to the Panthers". tribunedigital-sunsentinel. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
- KOVALEV RETIRES AFTER 19 YEARS IN THE NHL https://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=418798
- Report: Alex Kovalev retires http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=661513
- KOVALYOV ENDS CAREER http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/news/news-singleview/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=9013&cHash=12505355ad405fd158fdc0ec55fb95e1
- "Alex Kovalev Makes Surprise Comeback in Swiss League, Gets Ejected". sportsnet.ca. 2016-10-18.
- "EHC Visp's Alexei Kovalev Makes Comeback in Game Against EVZ Academy". swisshockeynews.ch. 2016-10-18.
- Visp, EHC. "Alexei Kovalev is EHC Visp's new team manager, Visp signs several new players". swisshockeynews.ch. Retrieved 2016-03-24.
- Grief, Ari (31 March 2013). "Alex Kovalev: The Merchant of Chills and Thrills". The Hockey Writers. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
Alex Kovalev is an accomplished and licensed aircraft pilot
- "Kovalev committed to kids in need". NHL.com. Montreal: Montreal Canadians. 24 October 2006. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- The Canadian Press (17 March 2008). "HABS FORWARD KOVALEV SAYS HOCKEY DVD TO HELP KIDS WITH HEART TROUBLE". hehockeynews.com. Montreal: The Hockey News. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
- Brodie, Rob (27 August 2010). "Kovalev foundation raises funds to make hearts beat". NHL.com. Ottawa Senators. Retrieved 12 December 2017.