Ilya Kovalchuk: KHL Check Up and Look Into the Future

Well, Ilya Kovalchuk is now well into his second season as a full time KHL player. Hard to believe its only been a year and 2 months since Kovalchuk announced his retirement from the NHL. We can blame Gary Bettman and company for his desire to play back home in the first place. But, now that he’s back in his homeland, he seems to be happy and is playing extremely well. The odd part is that in an interview shortly after his retirement, Kovalchuk was quoted saying,”The Stanley Cup remains my target.” So, is a Kovalchuk return evident?

What Made Him Leave?

First off, let’s have a look at some of Kovalchuk’s best NHL moments.

The lockout in 2012-13. During the time off from hockey in North America, Kovalchuk spent the extra break back in his home country of Russia with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He found this to be much more fun for him as he was finally able to have friends and family not only at his games, but also be able to spend time with them off the ice. Obviously, Kovalchuk felt far more comfortable with this lifestyle as opposed to the more independent and ‘nothing but hockey’ life in the NHL. Once the 2013 season got back underway in the NHL, Kovy returned to the New Jersey Devils for that season, but clearly, with the ability to easily compare his Russia life to his North America life in one year, he decided he would be much happier living and playing full time in the KHL.

Kovalchuk Loving Life in KHL, Russia

Alexei Ponikarovsky devils win in overtime
Ilya Kovalchuk was apart of the Devils 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

In 2013-14, Kovalchuk’s first full KHL season, his SKA St. Petersburg finished second in their conference before falling to underdog Lokomotiv in the first round. In his individual side, Kovy tallied 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 45 games. Perhaps not as great of numbers we would expect from him playing in a league that is knowingly still not at the same level as the NHL, but still acceptable from a guy getting used to a new league and relaxing at home far more often. So far in the 2014-15, it has been an unbelievable run. SKA St. Petersburg is first in the KHL so far, starting 17-1-0. Ilya Kovalchuk is first in league scoring, putting up 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points in 18 games thus far. There’s no question, Kovy should lead the KHL in scoring this year. He is by far the most talented player in the league, and also much more comfortable in the league now.

What are Kovalchuk’s Future Plans?

Lundqvist beats Devils
Rumours have swirled on multiple occasions of Kovalchuk’s desire to return to the NHL for a Stanley Cup.

Ilya Kovalchuk is only 31 years old, meaning he still has a ways to go in his career, four or five years would be a fair estimate, barring good health. However, what is unknown is where he will spend the remainder of his career. Shortly after his retirement in August of 2013, Kovalchuk was interviewed and said, “(The) Stanley Cup remains my target. I’m just 30, it’s yet to come.” Does this mean he has intentions to return to the NHL after his 4 year contract with SKA St. Petersburg? Quire possibly, yes. At the same time, the KHL has been very outgoing in saying that they believe both Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin will follow Kovalchuk’s lead as early as the 2015-16 season. Kovy would still be under contract in KHL at that time, would Ovechkin and Malkin convince him to stay in Russia for the rest of his career? Only time will tell.

In the end, Ilya Kovalchuk is set to remain in the KHL until 2016-17. After that, who knows if he will want to return to the NHL in search of a Stanley Cup. But, to be able to do that, all 30 owners of the NHL teams will have to accept his request to return from retirement. If that goes through, he will be property of the New Jersey Devils. But that’s all three years from now. Until then, let’s hope he continues to tear up the KHL and remains healthy through his 30’s.

10 thoughts on “Ilya Kovalchuk: KHL Check Up and Look Into the Future”

  1. Poorly written piece lacking accurate information. The NHL does not require Kovy to get clearance from 29 other teams before he would return in 2016/17. At that time he will be 35 years old and considered an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team. He is only property of the Devils until he turns 35, and if he wanted to return before that age, would need approval of every other team in the league.

  2. Great piece, Devin! I think this one was almost as good as your top 5 overrated players article. It reminded me of a ford focus, painted black with great vinyls; full of life, grit and power. This article will bump all others right of the road, as if they were getting hit from behind going up a hill at 200 mph! Whooooa BABY look at that pickup fly! All in all, I think my future with the site is going straight down the dumper. Dumper. It seems odd that articles such as this get such great attention, while actual good articles get none. Why is this? Can you tell me why? Can you, Devin? Can you? In my personal opinion, you have to use your boost at just the right moment to eclipse 200, too late and you’ll go straight into a wall. I think I think I think your future is bright, like a black and white Honda civic in its prime. Vroom Vroom.

    Sincerely, your friendly neighbourhood Mail Truck

  3. sort of a joke not having but a few ATLANTA THRASHER moments in there….remember when he played there, guys? Shame….

  4. Injuries play a big role in Kovalchuk leaving as well. Why play 23-25 minutes a night and be the focal point 82 times a year plus playoffs as opposed to less time in an easier league at 2/3 the schedule. It was a no brainer (and for more $$).

  5. Shooter: wth integrity? you are proposed with the same money you will take off there with the first flight. integrity…

  6. He’s making $20 million tax free and is playing a 54 game season. That’s probably the real reason he left the NHL.

  7. If a player on my team retired and then went overseas to immediately start a new career, I’d question his integrity for doing so. I hope he is not coming back to the NHL. I see Ovechkin eventually doing the same as Kovy when he realizes he will never win a cup with the Caps.

  8. Great piece! I was torn to see Kovy leave the NHL, he was an unbelievable player, one of the only Russians I came to love. Especially as a devil he really developed a true two-way game. I really hope he comes back to NJ some day!

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