Kovalchuk scored one goal and fired three shots on net in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Jets. Kovalchuk streaked toward the net and deflected a Drew Doughty pass behind Connor Hellebuyck for the first score of the night. He also logged a monstrous 23:03 of ice time, proving that the faster NHL game was no problem. The 35-year-old now has one goal and two helpers in three games for the Kings, and fantasy owners should be delighted that the slight risk they took on Kovalchuk is paying off early.
Kovalchuk recorded two even-strength assists in Sunday's 4-2 home win over the Red Wings. The Russian power winger crossed 400 career helpers and delivered his first points as a King. Kovalchuk now has 401 career assists and 818 total points in as many NHL contests. He's back in the NHL after wreaking havoc on KHL goalies the past five seasons, forming the top line with two-time Selke Trophy winner Anze Kopitar and another heady skater in 24-year-old Alex Iafallo. Curiously, the Kings used Kovalchuk as a net-front screener on the power play in the season-opening loss to the Sharks on Friday. Sure, he's a tank at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, but the winger also boasts a terrific point shot that could result in plenty of man-advantage goals should the Kings switch things up in that key special teams situation.
Kovalchuk registered a secondary power-play assist Tuesday in a 4-3 split-squad home loss to the Coyotes. He recorded 22:48 of ice time in his Kings debut. As a clear indication of how eager the Kings were to see Kovalchuk in action, he received more ice time than any other forward involved in this matchup. As expected, Kovalchuk was stationed on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, though it's not clear whether Brown or Alex Iafallo will skate with the 6-foot-3, 230-pound power forward from Russia during the regular season.
Kings president Luc Robitaille expects Kovalchuk to score 25-30 goals this season, Josh Cooper of The Athletic reports. Like a fine wine, Kovalchuk, 35, only gets better with age. In the five-plus seasons spent abroad in the KHL, Kovalchuk's final two were his best statistically. Meanwhile, he's averaged exactly one point per game in the North American "show" -- 816 points in 816 games -- including an 83-point campaign in 2011-12. Kovalchuk's specialty is scoring goals, especially via one-timers, whereas his new team averaged less than three goals per game in 2017-18. Expect the addition of the Russian sniper to cause that number to rise above three in 2018-19.
Kovalchuk has agreed to a three-year contract with the Kings, reports Bob McKenzie of TSN.ca. The average annual cap hit is $6.25 million, which is the same as the Leafs' deal with Patrick Marleau. Kovalchuk will immediately bring sniping to the Kings' top six, but he will be 38 in a young man's league when the deal ends.
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