I’ve been attempting to get an interview with Kovalenko, but no luck to date. This will have to do for now. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but at training camp, his former KHL teammate Brandon Kozun said that the young Russian “never lacked confidence.” You can see it in some of his answers, as he doesn’t want to come to the NHL and just be a depth player. He’s the real wild card for the end of the season, as you just don’t know how someone’s game will translate until they get to North America.
You can read the full interview here, but these are the parts most applicable to the Avalanche.
Goals for this season:
“First of all, I’m now thinking about Torpedo, how can we win the Gagarin Cup. And then I’ll try to help in the playoffs at Colorado if I’m allowed to do it.
I was very happy to sign a contract with the Avalanche. For me, it was a dream to get into the NHL. When I signed, I was the happiest child in the world.
At the same time, I understand that you can’t stop there. We need to continue to work in order to progress. When I get there, I need to be not in the third or fourth line, but immediately make my way to the leading positions in the top 6. Yes, there is high competition, but it only spurs. I will try very hard.”
On how much the Avalanche check in on him
“I’m definitely being watched from Avalanche. I am being written by the scouts, congratulated on my goals and a good game. I know that the general manager of Colorado, Joe Sakic, calls Igor Larionov and asks his opinion about me. Of course, I don’t communicate directly with Sakic myself. It is clear that when I was out for a few weeks due to injury, the Avalanche was alarmed and asked what was happening to me.
That is, they are closely interested in me at Colorado. And it’s very nice. It could have been that I was signed for a contract, and the next communication would have happened in the spring, when I would go to them. When you’re often in touch with someone from the NHL, it’s more convenient.”
On his work ethic
“There were problems when I was a child, and I wanted to finish with hockey when I just wasn’t put in the line-up. They said I was short, I wouldn’t play. I was constantly under tremendous pressure when everyone said, ‘Your dad is cool, and what will you achieve?’
But everything is possible, the most important thing is faith, the desire for it. I don’t want to praise myself, but I’ll say about myself that I’m a hard worker. And it gives me confidence. As I like to say that if you work, the hockey god will reward you for all the work you’ve done. You need to be honest about the business you’re doing.”
On playing for Igor Larionov
“You must first get stronger in Russia, get the skills. Moreover, you yourself understand what the coaching staff at “Torpedo” under the leadership of Igor Larionov. I told the young guys last season: ‘Guys, you have to get high, get good emotions every day. Come to training as if it were a holiday for you. Because it is very rare that you immediately come across such coaches at the start of your career. It’s just a fairy tale. When they don’t yell at you, they don’t yell, but they want to do everything to reveal you and make you only better.’
So I appreciate this experience. I try to get positive emotions every day. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work out. I catch myself thinking that a few more months, and that’s it – I’ll leave. And then you don’t know when you’ll meet again, when you’ll work with the Torpedo coaching staff. That’s why you need to appreciate every day I spend here.”
There are a few other items in the interview, but I didn’t want to put it all in here. He talks about his dad, former Avalanche forward Andrei Kovalenko, and following the same path as Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov.
Kovalenko currently has 18 points in 15 games for Torpedo, who sits in third place in the Western Conference.