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
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
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
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
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.