AVALANCHE

Blue-chip Avalanche prospect could soon join the team

Mar 18, 2024, 3:25 PM

Nikolai Kovalenko...

Photo by Andreas HILLERGREN / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP

Nikolai Kovalenko is in Denver, could that mean the Russian forward could soon be joining the Colorado Avalanche?

The 24-year-old was a sixth-round pick of the Avs in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft was named the fifth-best player on Mile High Hockey’s preseason 25 under 25, placing behind players like Cale Makar and the now-traded Bowen Byram. Kovalenko is a five-foot-ten, 185-pound winger who can also play center. Playing in Russia’s KHL for Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo tallied over 100 points in 113 games including the postseason. This year with Torpedo was his seventh in the KHL, spending most of his career with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. In the past, Kovalenko featured on Russia’s World Junior team in 2019 which won Bronze.

In recognition of Kovalenko’s standout out play Torpedo terminated their alternate captain’s contract so he could sign an entry-level deal with the Avs. Coloraod loaned him back to his Russian team for the year but now that his season in the KHL is over, Kovalenko could seemingly be days from his NHL debut. And he shared on Instagram that he landed in Denver on Sunday.

Kovalenko would be following in his father’s footsteps who not only played in the NHL but was an original member of the Avalanche, following the team from Quebec City. After just 26 games in Denver, Andrei Kovalenko was sent back to Quebec to play for Montreal in the deal that brought Patrick Roy to Colorado. Andrei tallied 147 points in 210 games with the Nordiques/Avalanche.

Toward the end of his NHL career, Andrei was on the Hurricanes which is why Nikolai was born in Carolina.

Along with scoring nearly a point a game over the past two seasons the younger Kovalenko plays a heavy game, capable of racking up hits and scrapping with opponents. With Logan O’Connor now out for the season, Kovalenko could easily slide into Colorado’s forward group, most likely he’ll start on the fourth line alongside Andrew Cogliano or Kovalenko will play along with Ross Colton and Miles Wood and bump Zach Parise down a line.

The Avalanche have 14 games left in the regular season including a five-game homestand that begins on Friday. With a game on Tuesday in St. Louis and then some time off, it seemingly makes sense to get Kovalenko integrated in the coming week. Though, it’s not unusual for NHL teams to add top prospects to their team in the middle of a playoff run, that’s how Makar made his pro debut. The Avs are making a late-season push for first, tied with Winnipeg at 91 points for the lead in the central and one point back of Vancouver for the West’s top spot.

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