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Colorado Avalanche prospect Nikolai Kovalenko scores first goal in KHL

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The 18-year-old Colorado Avalanche draft pick might have a chance at making the big club, furthering his development immensely.

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits
Nikolai Kovalenko poses after being selected 171st by the Colorado Avalanche during the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 23, 2018 in Dallas, Texas.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Hockey is slowly coming back.

CHL kids are in training camp, Europe is starting their seasons-long tournament, and the KHL is underway. There are plenty of Colorado Avalanche prospects spread across the world at all levels. One in particular is an 18-year-old kid drafted by the Avs who has a chance to make the big club full-time as a teenager, something his teammate Yegor Korshkov successfully did at 19.

Nikolai Kovalenko might make the KHL squad, but he also might not. KHL teams typically don’t play kids. Even if they’re in the lineup, coaches will tend to just play them for just five or so minutes and rely instead on their vets. The odds aren’t in Kovalenko’s favor.

That being said, we’ve seen countless examples of kids in the NHL getting a taste at the top level and playing so well they force their parent club to keep them up. This goal by the little Kovalenko might just be the first step in that.

In Locomotiv Yaroslavl’s second game of the season, Kovalenko picked up the second of five unanswered goals for his team against Novosibirsk Sibir in a 5-0 stomping. This was Kovalenko’s first game of the season after being scratched in the team’s first game (a 4-0 loss to Avangard Omsk). Nikolai also played third-line minutes throughout the game, getting a total of 12:26 minutes of icetime, more than the above-mentioned Korshkov.

As you can see, despite being 5’10”, 174 lbs, and a teenager, Kovalenko confidently stood his ground against 30-year-old veteren of the KHL and top defenseman on Sibir, Konstantin Alexeyev. Kovalenko was able to muscle his way to the front of the net and stay there long enough to get a stick on the puck. As he falls, he somewhat luckily is able to scoop the puck around the pads of Alexei Krasikov. Nevertheless, it’s a goal that counts on a play that seems to have gotten the eye of the drafting community.

For a sixth-round pick drafted barely two months ago, I’d say that is what people would call a “value pick.”

As the season goes on, we’ll keep an eye on Kovalenko’s career along with the rest of the exciting prospects Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche have been able hoard.