Ilya Kovalchuk turns 30 later this year, but he already has 800 points since joining the NHL in 2001. Since he was traded to the New Jersey Devils and forced to fit into a team-first, two-way system, Kovalchuk has seen his numbers drop a bit, but he’s still on pace for spectacular Hall of Fame scoring numbers.
In his 200th game with the Devils and 794th game in the NHL, Kovalchuk notched his 800th career point – an incredible offensive accomplishment. It is obvious, however, that Ilya Kovalchuk has committed to playing on both sides of the ice, which is rare for a prolific scorer of his ability. Kovalchuk’s commitment to defense in recent seasons was a big reason the New Jersey Devils were able to ride a tenacious forecheck to the Stanley Cup Finals. The New Jersey Devils rely on Kovalchuk to play demanding minutes, as evidenced by his 30:01 in the first game of a back-to-back earlier this year. He is one of the league’s best penalty killers, with five short-handed goals in the past two seasons, and he typically plays the point through the entirety every power play shift.
It begs the question – is Ilya Kovalchuk one of the best two-way players in hockey?
Given his minutes, versatility, and commitment to becoming a better defensive player in recent seasons, it’s hard to argue against Ilya Kovalchuk being an elite two-way player. His rare blend of skills, speed, scoring ability, and stamina allow him to be as dangerous as anyone in the league. Since coming to the New Jersey Devils and transforming his game, Kovy is a force on both sides of the ice, leading the penalty kill and buzzing on the forecheck.
Most players with Ilya Kovalchuk’s scoring ability only focus on scoring. Kovalchuk has been able to maintain his point-per-game pace from his days as a roving sniper on the Thrashers while playing increased minutes on both sides of the ice with the New Jersey Devils, which proves his value. Ilya Kovalchuk is one of the best two-way players in the game, and his 800 points at age 29 are a remarkable testament to his abilities. He did it quickly, and he’ll surely have Hall of Fame numbers before his career concludes – all while committing to defense and playing extended minutes as part of one of the most complete games in hockey.
There are better scorers than Ilya Kovalchuk. There are better defensive players, too. There are few who can do both the way Kovalchuk does.