Alexei Kovalev named head coach of KHL’s Kunlun Red Star

Kunlun Red Star of the KHL has a new head coach and his name is Alexei Kovalev.

The former NHLer has taken over the head coaching duties after two years as an assistant with the Beijing-based franchise. The 47-year-old Kovalev, who played 1,316 NHL games with five teams, is the fifth coach in team history — a history that only began with the 2016-17 KHL season.

When asked by Gillian Kemmerer about his way of motivating players, Kovalev pointed out a few main factors.

“[F]irst of all, I ask myself if this is the type of guy I would have played with, if I was still a player. I am experienced enough playing hockey all my career, and I’ve had a lot of coaches—so I have enough information on how to match players. But most importantly, you have to understand the player. You have to play around his skills. There’s no time for switching him over, or teaching him things. Of course the teaching process is still going to happen, but you’re not going to have time to say, ‘You’ve got to try to do this.’ Things he has not really done before.

“At the same time, it’s a lot of teaching guys how to play together as a unit. And I’m probably going to try to keep the guys on the same lines as much as possible. Most importantly, you need to understand the player, see his potential, figure out what he is capable of and use him in the right spot. If you use a player in the right spot and let him open up to his potential, then the player’s only going to get better.”

Kunlun has not made the playoffs since their first year of existence. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic they will play their home games in Russia this coming season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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