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Ilya Kovalchuk might just climb into Hart Trophy argument

Feb 14, 2012, 11:31 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk AP

As far as go-to whipping boys go, Ilya Kovalchuk provides a desirable target for critics. Let’s go over the checklist:

  • He’s not Canadian or American* (check)
  • Bloated $100 million contract (check)
  • Lack of playoff success (check)

For a good chunk of his stay in New Jersey, “underwhelming performance” was one of those bullet points, but there’s no sense making that argument anymore.

Kovalchuk scored his first hat trick as a member of the Devils tonight to trigger a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres. Such a performance makes me wonder aloud: is Kovalchuk inching his way into the Hart Trophy discussion?


In the past, the only measuring stick for his success could be found in scoring. He’s holding up his end of the bargain in that regard, as Kovalchuk has 25 goals and 56 points. Those 56 points are good for ninth overall in the NHL, but in the context of the New Jersey Devils offense, it’s even more impressive; Kovalchuk has factored into 35.4 percent of the team’s goals this season.

Increased versatility

Kovalchuk is called upon to do more than just fill the net in New Jersey, though. His 24:48 minutes per game ranks 16th among all NHL skaters and No. 1 in the forward ranks.

It’s not just “glory boy” time, either, as he’s killing penalties for more than a minute (1:10) per contest. That’s not going to get him in the running for the Selke – and teammate Zach Parise nearly doubles his PK time average with 2:10 per game – but it still shows that he’s bringing more to the table than many might expect.

Not quite there yet

If I was part of the voting process, Kovalchuk wouldn’t be in my top three. He might not even be in my top 10 right now – but that could change if he stays hot.

That probably doesn’t matter a whole lot to the Devils, though, as that $100 million deal is only looking half-crazy right now (by my estimation). Where does Kovalchuk rank on your list, though?

* – Look, I don’t like it either, but you’d be naive to believe that there aren’t some pundits who let their “nationalist” colors fly.

  1. martysbetter - Feb 14, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    Funny thing is, Ovechkin fits the critics checklist far and away more than Kovy (9.5mil cap hit over the next 13 years, not looking too good these days..) but you never see any articles about that.

  2. espauln - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    “Such a performance makes me wonder aloud: is Kovalchuk inching his way into the Vezina Trophy discussion?”

    When did Kovalchuk become the starting goaltender for The Devils?

    • James O'Brien - Feb 15, 2012 at 7:25 AM

      Corrected, thanks.

  3. greggoldberg - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:33 AM

    That would be really impressive if Kovalchuk were to win the Vezina Trophy.

    • spezzabangsmilfs - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:42 AM

      And people question James O’Brien’s hockey knowledge.


  4. spezzabangsmilfs - Feb 15, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I traded Kovy for Bobby Ryan a month into the season. Feels good

  5. AppealToReason - Feb 15, 2012 at 2:00 AM

    Watching Kovy right now is pretty awesome. Anytime he has the puck you just get this feeling that something is gonna happen. Same feeling Bure used to give and Ovechkin gave until the last 2 years.

  6. mrskunitzdrippinlips - Feb 15, 2012 at 6:00 AM

    he no pringles can geno

  7. fleurysteeth - Feb 15, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    Mrskunitzdrippinlips is constantly spitting facts and dropping knowledge. It’s amazing. He’s like PHTs own personal encyclopedia. SCA.

  8. schaffershokai - Feb 15, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    I wonder if gets to do this with the ladies:

  9. pavelfitzgerald - Feb 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Even writers at PHT let their nationalist pride fly. Case in point – their updates on American college hockey. Where’s the love for Canadian junior hockey or een world junior coverage. The Canadian juniors have players of all nationalities & produce substantially more pro hockey players then American College hockey. If you look before the last 10 years American college hockey rarely produced NHLers

    • joeyjojoshabadoo - Feb 15, 2012 at 7:10 PM

      1. That’s not really the kind of flag-flying the writer was talking about.

      2. I’m pretty sure Brough and Halford are both Canadian. I’m guessing they don’t write about the World Juniors because TSN pretty much covers anything that anyone would ever want to know about them, plus several hours more coverage.

  10. jpelle82 - Feb 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    no hart this year kovy, but good to see you actually earning your paycheck

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