The Los Angeles Kings bringing Ilya Kovalchuk back over to North American soil could be a game changing move. The Kings were the winners of the Kovalchuk lottery, ending years of the speculation over his return. Playing on what could turn out to be either an over or underpayment of a contract, the Kings hope Kovalchuk can return to his younger form. And a Kovalchuk returned to form, is far more valuable than the casual onlooker may assume.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s Potential Impact
There are many things that Kovalchuk can add to the King’s roster that could make a big impact for the team. His goal scoring, and overall play-making ability could be a factor for the Kings down the line. However, it is his all around style of play and adaptability that could end up being the biggest factor.
Examining Kovalchuk’s Abilities
Kovalchuk is first and foremost a goalscorer. He may even be one of the best finishers of the generation. With one of the most lethal shots in recent memory, he has been able to tally massive numbers over his career. He even captured a Rocket Richard trophy early in his career with the Atlanta Thrashers. Kovalchuk had what is often called the ‘clutch gene’, an ability few players possess. He had the ability to take the game into his own hands, and control the outcome. This skill, in particular, made him a valuable commodity around the league.
There are very few players with the game breaking ability Kovalchuk had. When things needed to be done, and goals needed to be scored, Kovalchuk was the player the coach would send out to finish the job. See his overtime Gold Medal winner against Canada in the 2008 World Championship as an example.
Bringing Speed and Size, and even Defense?
While known for his scoring abilities, Kovalchuk is also a perfect example of the complete player. He is a coach’s ideal player, despite the off ice dramatics was blamed for in the past. Kovalchuk was one of the fastest players in the NHL during his tenure, while also being built like a tank. He is a physical specimen, standing at 6’3, and weighing 227 pounds. This size coupled with the elite speed he has been known for in the past made him an unstoppable force on the ice. Whether or not he still brings this type of speed to the ice at the age of 35 remains to be seen. However, his game in Russia has shown little signs of change. It is still very likely that Kovalchuk returns as fast and as strong as he was prior to his exit.
Early in his career, Kovalchuk was tied to the Russian stereotype of being all skill, but no awareness or care for the defensive side of the game. By the end of his NHL career, Kovalchuk had transformed into the exact opposite of this stereotype.
He was a workhorse on the ice, the type of player that could be dropped into any situation. During his time in New Jersey, Kovalchuk was used as one of the team’s top penalty killer. He became one of the leagues strongest two way players, who excelled on the defensive side of the puck. He was instrumental in the Devil’s 2012 Stanley Cup Final run and helped carry the team to within two games of a championship. Scoring numerous key goals, while also shutting down some of the toughest assignments in the league, he did what needed to be done. All of this was done while nursing an injured back.
Fitting In With the Los Angeles Kings: Ilya Kovalchuk
Kovalchuk can score, he can skate, hit, fight, and play defence. He truly is an all around soldier any team would be lucky to have. If Los Angeles get a Kovalchuk that can score even half of the goals he has scored on average in the past, his contract will be worth it. But it is very likely they get an Ilya Kovalchuk returning with vengeance and a point to prove. He is the type of competitor that will benefit from having a chip on his shoulder.
The Los Angeles Kings have a potential franchise altering player on their team. He fills a hole on left wing the team needed so desperately. At the very least, signing Ilya Kovalchuk makes Los Angeles a team to reckon with this year. At best, signing Ilya Kovalchuk may have forced the Kings cup window open for another few years.
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