Welcome to part two of a three part film room series focusing on Colorado Avalanche prospect Nikolai Kovalenko.
The series will finish up this week, with 40+ clips of Kovalenko (#51) and his game over in the KHL. Part one focused on his physicality, while part three will focus in on his high level of skill, and whether or not that can translate to the NHL. As mentioned in the previous film room, the goal of this series is to acclimate Avalanche fans to his game, as all anyone really sees are highlights.
Based off what I’ve heard, there’s a good chance Kovalenko makes his way over to the Avalanche after the next KHL season finishes up. He’d sign a contract, play immediately, burn that year of his entry-level deal, and negotiate further from there. So, does he have a game that can translate immediately to the NHL?
That’s part of what the focus will be on with this film room. Kovalenko’s motor and work ethic is off the charts. He plays the game hard, and plays in every situation imaginable over for his team in the KHL. His game bears a remarkable resemblance to Artturi Lehkonen, and what he brings to the Avalanche. If you’re looking for a comparable, that’s it, and that’s what you hope he can become.
Today, we’ll take a look at that effort level, penalty killing prowess, his ability to draw penalties, crash the net, and more.
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Without further ado, let’s get to part two.
Penalty Killing Dynamo
Kovalenko was used heavily on the penalty kill in the KHL, averaging 1:30 per game for Torpedo this past season. From the clips above, you can see why.
In the first clip, he reads the play and uses his stick to break up the initial cross-ice pass. He then pressures the puck carrier along the boards, and takes it away. That leads to a rush the other way for his squad. It eventually comes to Kovalenko, who makes a skilled play to catch a tough pass and cut to the middle for a look. He doesn’t stop there, though, because he fights to kill time along the boards, and when he loses the puck, still puts pressure on the opposing team. This clip alone killed off about 1/4 of a penalty.
The next two clips are him just wanting the puck more for a clear.
The final clip is a shorthanded goal he scored in the playoffs, where he just plows to the net, and scores while falling to his belly.
These are the types of things that can translate to North America. He’s not just about offense, because as you’ll see in the next film room, there are some questions as to how much that can translate. It’s the rest of his game that gives you hope he can establish himself in the NHL.
Effort is not an issue in his game. He’s typically going all-out, all the time. In the first clip here, he hunts down the opposing player all the way from his offensive zone, taking him off the puck and starting a breakout for his team. Clip two is much of the same, as he tracks back, lifts the opposing players stick, and starts the breakout.
From there, you have a clip of him one-on-four, where he takes a hit, but dives to get the puck out in front to his teammate for a good chance.
Like I mentioned earlier, he’s used in all situations, and with the net empty for the opposing team, he foils all there plans. They win a clean face-off, but he gets to the puck first, pokes it around the closest player, then beats the defenseman to the puck for a clear. It leads to an empty net goal, and a win for his team.
A lot of the clips are just him wanting the puck more than the opposition, but the last clip is a fun one. He uses his body to hold off the opposing player, then beats him up the ice. That effort and skating pays off, and he hits his teammate driving to the net for a goal.
Kovalenko was assessed 44 penalty minutes of his own last year in 66 games, including both regular season and playoffs. But his style of play had a tendency to draw penalties on the opposing team. In total, he drew 68 penalty minutes for the opposition. A lot of that comes from his willingness to go to the tough areas of the ice, and take the puck there.
In the first clip, he makes a nice play in the neutral zone to carry the puck up and hand it off to a teammate. He continues to the net, and draws a penalty because of it. The second clip is more of the same, as he weaves through four defenders and takes it to the net, giving his team a powerplay.
He’s fearless, which is a great thing, but also a bit of a concern, like I touched on in the previous installment. He knows where goals are scored, and takes the puck there. He doesn’t score on this play, but there’s zero hesitation on his part to take the puck directly to the net, even with traffic around.
Laying It On The Line
There’s that fearlessness again. Maybe not the best technique in the world, but Kovalenko lays his body in front of a big slap shot, trying to do whatever he can to stop the opposing team from scoring. You can’t play in all situations if you aren’t willing to do that, and this is the type of stuff the Avalanche, like any other NHL squad, love to see.
If and when Kovalenko makes his way over to the Avalanche, these are the types of things that will lead to him finding success, more-so than any offense he can bring.
Look for the final installment later this week!