Now that Alex Kovalev hit 1,000 points, which European NHLer could be next?

Alex Kovalev is many things – talented, enigmatic and inconsistent are some of the most common descriptions for the winger – but one thing that is undeniable is the fact that he’s one of the all-time leading scorers among European-born NHL players.

He solidified that status on Monday by hitting the 1,000 point mark for his career. Oddly enough, he wasn’t the first Ottawa Senators forward to do it this season as Daniel Alfredsson reached that plateau earlier in 2010-11.

Naturally, with Kovalev hitting such an outstanding milestone, it had people wondering: who’s next? NHL.com specifically asked which European player – born and trained outside of Canada – might be the next one to do so? I thought I’d look at some of the most likely candidates and one pair who could be the most interesting case.

Marian Hossa, Chicago
Age: 31
Points: 787 in 850 games

At his current pace, Hossa would need to play another 225 games to reach 1,000 points, meaning he could get the milestone some time early in the 2013-14 season. But injuries could be a problem. Besides missing time earlier this season, he played just 57 games (51 points) last season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Still, he has to be considered the favorite because he has a big lead over other European stars.

My take: With only 213 points to go, I think Hossa is almost a guarantee to hit that mark unless he really falls apart due to injury.

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey
Age: 27
Points: 652 in 641 games

At his current pace, Kovalchuk would need about 340 more games to reach 1,000 points, putting him there early in the 2014-15 season. But that assumes he continues at his career pace — which is a lot faster than his pace with the Devils this season. Kovalchuk was the focus of the offense from the time he arrived in the NHL with the Thrashers until the Devils acquired him last February. Since then, he’s struggled to fit into New Jersey’s system, first under coach Jacques Lemaire and this season under new coach John MacLean.

My take: Not only am I confident that Kovalchuk will hit the 1,000 point mark soon, but I wonder if he might reach that plateau before he wins a playoff series in his career. That’s messed up, I know, but you never know.

Alex Ovechkin, Washington
Age: 25
Points: 555 in 418 games

At his current pace, Ovi would reach the 1,000-point milestone in 335 more games, meaning he’d get there early in 2014-15 — and putting him in a race with Kovalchuk to become the fourth Russian to get there. Both players are big, strong, fast and talented. However, Ovechkin is much more of a physical player, making him more susceptible to injuries — he missed 10 games to injuries and suspensions last season after missing just four (three for a family matter) in his first four seasons.

My take: Not only will Ovechkin hit that one grand mark, he has a great chance to do so before he even turns 30 years old. Maybe the talk of physical play will hamper him in a chase to 2,000 points, but I’ve heard that logic year after year yet he remains far less injury prone than his contemporary point scoring rival Sidney Crosby.

John Kreiser mentions players such as Pavel Dastyuk and Milan Hedjuk among his picks as “longshots” to hit that mark, but the most interesting duo in that group is the Sedin twins.

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin
Age: 30
Points: 596 in 748 games (Henrik); 571 in 725 games
(Daniel)

Vancouver’s twins may get to 1,000 points (becoming the first twins to do so), but they’ll be hard-pressed to get there before players like Hossa, Kovalchuk or Ovechkin. Still, both are coming off their best seasons in the NHL and have produced 24 points in 20 games for the Canucks this season. Even if they produce at last season’s rate of roughly 1.36 points per game, they each would need nearly five full seasons to reach 1,000 points — by which time Hossa, Kovalchuk and Ovechkin (and maybe more) should be past that mark.

My take: Sure, they won’t be the next ones to get there, but considering the fact that their less-than-rugged styles will keep them relatively less exposed to injury, I think they will become the first pair of twins to score 1,000 points each. Heck, it might only take five more seasons if they keep playing like they have been.

Caps’ Vrana hoping to earn spot with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov

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It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.

Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.

Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.

“We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”

The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.

“He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”