Monday, July 27, 2009
July by the Numbers begins to wind down with jersey #27 from Russia.
Alexi Kovalev was drafted by the New York Rangers 15th overall in the 1991, the first Russian drafted in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
His first NHL season was the 1992-93 season, when he split time between the New York Rangers and it's top minor league affiliate of the time, the Binghamton Rangers of the AHL.
Now with the Rangers full time, he would play 76 games and score 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points in the 1993-94 regular season, plus adding another 9 goals and 12 assists for 21 points during the playoffs as the Rangers would capture the championship, making Kovalev, along with teammates Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov and Sergei Zubov the first Russians to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
He would play four more seasons in New York, but 14 games in the 1998-99 season Kovalev would be traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he would blossom offensively, scoring his only 40 goal season of his career with 44 and add 51 assists for his best season of his career with 95 points in 2000-01.
During his fifth season in Pittsburgh, Kovalev would find himself being traded back to the Rangers in what has been described as a cost-cutting move by the Penguins. Late in the following season he would be again traded, this time to the Montreal Canadiens, where he would register just a single goal and a pair of assists in 12 games for Montreal but he would come alive in the playoffs, with 10 points in 11 games.
After spending the lockout season of 2004-05 with Ak Bars Kazan in the Russian Super League, along with eight other NHLers in an unsuccessful attempt to bring the championship to Kazan during it's 1000th Anniversary, he would return to Montreal for the next four seasons, with the highlight being his 35 goal, 49 assist, 84 point season, the second highest offensive output of his career.
He currently sits at 394 goals and 941 points in his NHL career and will be looking for 400 goals and 1000 points in Ottawa, where he will being playing next season on a two year contract.
Kovalev was named as captain of the Eastern Conference All-Star Team in Montreal in 2009, the first Russian to captain an All-Star Team. He would live up to the honor by scoring two goals and an assist during the contest, as well as the game-winning shootout goal to capture the Most Valuable Player award of the game.
In addition to his NHL accomplishments, he has played for his country on numerous occasions. He represented the Soviet Union in the 1990 and 1991 European Junior Championships and the 1992 World Juniors where he won a gold medal.
Kovalev took home another gold at the 1992 Olympics playing for the Unified Team, as the breakup of the Soviet Union was still being sorted out at the time.
With the political situation now sorted out, Alexi has now represented Russia seven times, including three World Championships, including 2005 when he was named Best Forward, twice at the World Cup of Hockey and twice at the Olympics in 2002 and 2006.
The jersey I am featuring today is a 2004 Russia National Team Alexi Kovalev jersey as worn in the second World Cup where Kovalev scored twice and added one assist in four games as Russia beat the United States 3-1, with Kovalev scoring the game winning goal and was named First Star of the contest, lost to Canada 3-1 and defeated Slovakia 5-2 to finish second in the North American Pool before being eliminated in a rematch 5-3 by the United States in the quarterfinals.
This jersey features additional details, such as the 2004 World Cup of Hockey tournament patch worn on the chest, the International Ice Hockey Federation logo patch worn on the lower back of each players jersey during the tournament as well as the assistant captain's "A" worn by Kovalev during the competition.
Here is a glimpse at the sublime skills of Alexi Kovalev.
And somehow they managed to not include this beauty...
Finally, an interview with a very young and very excited Alexi after capturing the Stanley Cup in 1994 with the Rangers. The volume of the video is quite low, so you will have to turn up your volume a lot, but be sure to turn it back down again afterwards!