Forward Nikolai Kovalenko, the Colorado Avalanche’s 2018 171st overall pick, will soon sign with the team. What is the catch, you ask? Kovalenko will be on loan to his current KHL team, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, through the end of its season. This is great news for the Avalanche. This means that he will not be on the salary cap until he comes over from Russia. Also, Kovalenko was nearly a point-per-game player last season for Torpedo with 54 points in 56 games. He added seven additional points in 10 playoff games as well.
— Hockey News Hub (@HockeyNewsHub) July 22, 2023
Kovalenko is a speedy forward who can carry the puck through the zone and through traffic with ease. He has a shifty backhand shot that reminds me of the current Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen.
— KHL (@khl_eng) March 18, 2023
As Draftin Europe wrote in 2018, “Has guile and deceptiveness in traffic.. seems natural at operating in-tight and finding ways to make a play in those situations.”
Nikolai Kovalenko. Russian tank. pic.twitter.com/DyjfefIuAx
— KHL (@khl_eng) November 2, 2020
The bright side is that he would add scoring depth to Colorado late in the season when they need it most. The KHL season will end on Feb. 26, and then you can count on Torpedo making the playoffs from there. So the earliest Colorado could realistically expect Kovalenko would be mid-March.
Meet Torpedo's new points leader — Nikolai Kovalenko (53 pts, 54 GP). pic.twitter.com/L3SfVdy9cv
— KHL (@khl_eng) February 20, 2023
Kovalenko already has a tie to the Avalanche. His dad, Andrei, played for the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche when the team moved to Denver. On Dec. 6, 1995, Colorado traded Andrei to Montreal, which was unfortunate for him. Andrei went with Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault in exchange for Mike Keane and Patrick Roy. The transition should be easy for Kovalenko, as he already has a United States passport. He was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, while his father played for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Starting next year, the Avs will likely place Kovalenko in the middle six, if not the top six. The only transition issue that he may have will go from Olympic-sized ice (200×100) to an NHL-sized ice (200×85) surface. The biggest complaint from international players is that players get “on top of you a lot faster in the NHL.” This will be something that we will definitely monitor at The Rink, so keep it here for your Avalanche and Eagles coverage!
Update: The Colorado Avalanche and Nikolai Kovalenko have agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract on July 25th. He will officially be on loan with Torpedo through their season and join the Avalanche later this season.