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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25: #5 Nikolai Kovalenko

It’s almost time to see Tank Jr. in the NHL.

United States v Russia: Semifinals - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Five writers have ranked players under the age of 25 in the Colorado Avalanche organization as of July 1, 2023. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

This former 2018 sixth round selection has been in the Avalanche organization for quite a while and on the minds of fans, and surely the front office, wondering when he would cross the pond to join the team for a much-needed boost of depth in the bottom six. That day is almost here as recently Nikolai Kovalenko finally signed his Entry Level Contract with the Avalanche but all parties have agreed to a loan back to the KHL for one more season so he can satisfy his contract with Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo. This is a creative plan is so that all the arrangements are already made for Kovalenko to join the Avalanche immediately after Torpedo’s season ends, which will be likely sometime in March.

As the greatest riser on our list, Kovalenko was pretty much forgotten last year when he was traded to his third team in the KHL and subsequently signed a two-year contract extension. There had been ample opportunity to come to Colorado when several of his contracts had ended but the forward always opted to stay in Russia and out of the AHL, which just might serve to be a winning strategy. Thus, explains the low ranking in the past and the large leap now is because that hope for him to impact the Avalanche is finally coming to fruition and as someone who will get a commitment from the organization.

The 2023-34 season Kovalenko got that fresh start he needed with Torpedo and things finally clicked for him. Scoring 54 points in 56 games, which was good enough for top 10 in KHL scoring, was the breakout performance many had hoped he could provide and saw as a necessary step before coming over to North America. Kovalenko has now played five full seasons in the KHL with over 200 games of pro level seasoning in his career.

Kovalenko’s nickname is Tank Jr. after his father Andrei who was drafted by Quebec and briefly played for the Avalanche before getting included in the Patrick Roy trade. Nikolai plays with the same aggressive style as he’s relentless on the forecheck and has a will to go through any player in his path. The Russian forward has good vision and is a crafty passer which led to the increased point totals from last season and also soft hands to score goals in tight which makes him a shootout ace. That production is indication of enough translatable skill but it’s not the primary reason why Kovalenko is such an interesting anticipated addition to the Avalanche. He is perfect for Jared Bednar’s system and will be a noticeable addition. Kovalenko can take some penalties with his aggressive style but that’s not unlike Mikes Wood and Josh Manson.

Kovalenko is expected to get favor with the Avalanche and inserted in the lineup immediately. He has been NHL ready for several years and will be 24-years old when the time comes. His game is tailor made for the North American style but certainly there will be an adjustment period on and off the ice. The runway won’t be as long to show that he belongs with the Avalanche but this is the opportunity everyone has been waiting for and will finally happen in a few short months.

IHOCKEY-EURO-SWE-RUS-FIN Photo by ANDERS BJURO/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

#6 Sean Behrens

#7 Jean-Luc Foudy

#8 Oskar Olausson

#9 Justus Annunen

#10 Ben Meyers

#11 Sam Malinksi

#12 Jason Polin

#13 Ondrej Pavel

#14 Alex Beaucage

#15 Sampo Ranta

#16 Taylor Makar

#17 Jeremy Hanzel

#18 Trent Miner

#19 Colby Ambrosio

#20 Gianni Fairbrother

#21 Matt Stienburg

#22 Chris Romaine

#23 Maros Jedlicka

#24 Andrei Buyalsky

#25: Nikita Ishimnikov