After five years back home in Russia, Ilya Kovalchuk has been ready to resume his Stanley Cup chase with the Los Angeles Kings as the Russian superstar forward agreed to a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Kings at the end of June, choosing Los Angeles over several interested teams for his return to the NHL.
You'd like to know why Kovalchyuk signed with the Kings over the San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights or Boston Bruins? The veteran forward did not hide the reasons on Saturday when he was interviewed by team insider Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com.
It seems like the Kings were the only team with the caliber of players he was looking - better than the one in any other team he was a part of in the past...
“L.A. has a great group of guys. Like I said, great goaltending, great defense, and they have one of the best centers in the league. I never had a chance to play with those kinds of guys, so it’s really exciting for me. It’s great.”
"The last few years I was still in the same caliber like I was, so I feel comfortable," Kovalchuk said. "Especially when you play with the guys like Kopitar, Doughty, Carter, Brown, those guys, they make it even easier to get the points and the goals. We just need to work really hard and be a good team. It doesn't matter really who's going to score."
His comments might not sit well with former teammates, you never knew Kovalchyuk felt this way. However, one thing is clear, the Russian star is looking forward to coming back in the NHL and believes he still has three or four years of great hockey in his body.
“When I was making my decision, it was all about hockey because I have three or four years left in my tank where I can really play at a high level,” Kovalchuk said.
The 35-year-old Kovalchuk scored 816 points in 816 career games for the Atlanta Thrashers and the New Jersey Devils before leaving North America in 2013 for the Kontinental Hockey League’s SKA St. Petersburg. He led the KHL in scoring last season, and he was the MVP of the Olympic tournament in Pyeongchang while propelling the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" to a gold medal.
He will be looking to hoist at least one Stanley Cup before he retires. And clearly he missed the different rivalries and decided to spice things up with his comments on his former teammates.
Well done, Ilya.