NHL Lockout Sends New Jersey Devils Star Ilya Kovalchuk to KHL

By Mark Donatiello
Ed Mulholland – US PRESSWIRE

Ilya Kovalchuk, the leading scorer for the New Jersey Devils in 2011-12, appears to be headed to the KHL after the NHL lockout formally began on Saturday.  With negotiations stalled between the NHL and NHLPA and no clear deadlines in sight, Ilya Kovalchuk needs to continue his hockey career somewhere this season.  If the New Jersey Devils aren’t an option for the Russian winger, Ilya Kovalchuk will return to the KHL until a resolution is found.

According to various reports, Ilya Kovalchuk will be playing the 2012 season with SKA Saint Petersburg if the NHL lockout cuts into the regular season.

As a young teenager, Ilya Kovalchuk played for his native team – Spartak Moscow in Russia before joining the NHL.  He had another stint in Russia during the lost season that resulted from the last NHL lockout.  In 2004-05, Ilya Kovalchuk played with AK Bars Kazan.  In 53 games that year, Ilya Kovalchuk posted 42 points – including 19 goals.

Ilya Kovalchuk appears destined for a larger leadership role with the New Jersey Devils in 2012 after the departure of captain Zach Parise this offseason – if the NHL lockout ends in time.  After leading the Devils with 37 goals and 83 points in 2011-12, Ilya Kovalchuk is emerging as the dynamic offensive weapon he’s known for.  Playing in the KHL will help keep Kovalvhuk sharp before returning to the New Jersey Devils once NHL play begins.

Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar will also be playing in the KHL this season.  Alexander Ovechkin may join the defending KHL champion Dynamo Moscow.  As the NHL lockout continues, look for more top Russian talent to return to the KHL and Russia.

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