Los Angeles, CA—A familiar player to the NHL is making his return this season. Ilya Kovalchuk has signed with the Los Angeles Kings for a three-year deal worth $18.75 million.
The former number 1 pick is making his return to the league after spending some time in Russia. Although separated from National Hockey League, Kovalchuk, who is now 35, has chosen the opposite path of retirement. He has played with SKA St Petersburg in the KHL for the past 6 years. He scored 120 goals and dished 165 assists in his time with the team which included 262 regular season games. In his most recent season he was able to lead the KHL with 63 points (31 goals and 32 assists). It is now time for Kovalchuk to make his return to Hockey’s biggest professional stage.
Kovalchuk is going to be welcomed with open arms by the Los Angeles Kings. “We are excited to add Ilya to the L.A. Kings organization,” said General Manager Rob Blake. “He gives us an added element of skill and scoring along with a desire to win. This is something that the Kings have needed recently. As of last season, the Kings averaged 2.89 goals per game. That ranks them 16th out of 31 teams in the NHL. The team is looking for some much needed offense after only scoring 3 goals in the playoffs while being swept out of the first round by the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Fortunately for the Kings, Kovalchuk brings offense to the table. He is a former 3-time all-star who in the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 seasons scored 52 goals for the Atlanta Thrashers. He has played in the NHL for 12 years, and in that time-span he scored 417 goals. This was more than anyone in the league during that time. His best season happened to be with the New Jersey Devils, where scored 37 goals to go along with 46 assists. In his time with Atlanta and New Jersey, Kovalchuk earned 816 points in 816 games. Obviously Kovalchuk won’t bring back the prime of his years in the NHL to the Kings, but he will be a threat for Los Angeles in the seasons to come.
Kovalchuk is being brought in to help out a Kings offensive side that has been lacking in this past season, besides the efforts of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Jeff Carter, when he returned back from injury. Kopitar and Brown both recorded 92 and 61 points respectively while Carter managed to score 22 points in 27 games. For the rest of the forwards on the team it was a heavily inconsistent effort for the 2017 season. Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Alex Iafallo all gave low production, and the 3rd highest scorer on the team was defenseman Drew Doughty with 60 points. The Kings are looking for new firepower this offseason, and are hoping to get some major help from former all-star Ilya Kovalchuk.
While the Russian hockey player will bring leadership and experience to the table, the Kings will also get help from NHL draft, with selections of Rasmus Kupari and Akil Thomas to help out for the coming 2018 campaign. The nice combination of veteran leadership and new young talent to bring to the table will hopefully get the Kings moving in the right direction. President of the L.A. Kings Luc Robitaille had high praise for his future free agent signing. “He’s a great skater, and he’s very explosive,” said Robitaille. He may be a bit pricy for his age, but spirits are high in Los Angeles about the newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk for this upcoming season.
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