It was one heck of a season in the KHL for Colorado Avalanche prospect Nikolai Kovalenko.
The 23 year old forward led his team, Torpedo, in scoring with 54 points in 56 games. Those numbers put him top-10 in the KHL in scoring, and gave him the third highest points-per-game in the league. In the playoffs, he led the team in scoring again with seven points in 10 games, before the team was eliminated in the second round.
His father is former Avalanche forward Andrei Kovalenko. You may remember he was a big piece of the trade that brought Patrick Roy to Colorado. He’s currently the chairman of the KHL players association.
Kovalenko was interviewed earlier this month, and the topic of his son, Nikolai, came up.
– The Colorado are closely following the development of Nikolai’s career. At what point would you advise your son to start in the NHL?
There were a lot of conversations with Colorado after the draft. The son was offered a contract even before moving to Kazan. They said this: “He is young, let him come, for a year he will “cook” in the farm club. Let’s give him a chance…” And so on.
We talked to both the agent and the scouts. And everyone said that Kolya was needed, that the sooner he arrived, the faster he would adapt. But I saw from my own experience that the son would not have made it into the squad then. And he told the Colorado representatives: “There is potential in Kolya, let it be revealed in Russia.”
Because here the league is much stronger and better than the farm clubs across the ocean. The son will be cut in the KHL, and then you will get a ready-made player who will help you in the NHL championship, not the AHL. You don’t have to fly overseas at the age of 17-19 to break into the NHL through farm clubs. Make your way in Russia and go overseas as ready-made hockey players. For those who leave at the youth level, their careers are not very successful.
When he says Nikolai will be ‘cut’ in the KHL, he means like a gemstone cut, meaning that he’ll be developed in the KHL and when he’s ready, can help in the NHL immediately. Kovalenko moved to Kazan in 2021, so that’s the timeline on that contract offer.
It’s interesting that he brings up Nikolai being able to help a team win an NHL championship. That’s exactly where the Avalanche are at, and will be for several years. Kovalenko has one more year left on his contract in the KHL, and with no transfer agreement, it’s unlikely he comes over to the NHL before that deal is up.
Kovalenko gives the comparison of Grigori Denisenko with the Florida Panthers as someone who came over before they were ready. Denisenko is a former first round pick, and has spent the better part of the last three seasons in the AHL. In his NHL time, he has zero goals. He also discusses how proud he is of his son and his improvements, as well as what a hard worker he is.
You can read the rest of the interview yourself here. As always, we’ll keep you updated on everything Kovalenko related here at CHN.