Kovalev with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011
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
Alexei Vyacheslavovich Kovalev (Russian: ? ?, IPA: [?lk's?ej vt'slav?vt? k?v?'lf]; born February 24, 1973) is a Russian professional ice hockey coach, executive and former player. He is currently serving as the Head Coach for HC Kunlun Red Star of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
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 Nedv?d, 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 Ha?ek 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 Tomá? 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. 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.
Kovalev is a licensed aircraft pilot.
His family's 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.
|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||--||--||--||--|
|Representing Unified Team|
|World Junior Championship|
|European Junior Championship|
Alex Kovalev is an accomplished and licensed aircraft pilot