Ilya Kovalchuk brings 'legendary status' to Capitals

Chris Lingebach
February 25, 2020 - 11:32 am

Skating alongside NHL veteran Ilya Kovalchuk will be like playing with a legend, Capitals center Lars Eller told The Sports Junkies on Tuesday.

The Capitals acquired the 36-year-old winger from Montreal on Sunday ahead of the NHL trade deadline, giving up a third-round pick in 2020. "Kovy" was a star in the league even before fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin, making his professional debut with the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers in 2001-02. Ovi arrived in the NHL in 2005-06. Both are former top overall draft picks.

Kovalchuk has 872 career points on 442 goals and 430 assists, which ranks 14th in the NHL among active points leaders, despite playing six seasons in Russia's KHL. Coincidentally enough, Nicklas Backstrom is 13th on the list with 923 career points. He is still fourth among active goals leaders.

"For me, that guy has like legendary status," Eller said during his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance, driven by AAA. "I remember watching highlights of the guy when I was a kid."

"The guy was a real superstar," he said. "When I came into the league, he was right up there with the biggest names in the league, so it's pretty cool for me to be able to play on the same team as him."

"I think the last game we played with Montreal here a couple weeks ago, he looked very energetic. He looked like he was on," Eller said. "He was still doing things. He was creating scoring chances. He was setting guys up. He was very engaged. If can get that kind of Kovy here in the next couple weeks and down the road, he'll make our team better."

Kovy participated in his debut practice with the Caps Tuesday morning, skating on the third line with Carl Hagelin and Eller. Richard Panik got bumped down to the fourth line with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway. Brendan Leipsic appears to be the odd-man out. Kovy also practiced with the second power play unit.

It was incredible for Eller to witness Ovechkin reach a career milestone against New Jersey on Saturday, a game the Caps wound up losing 3-2. In a thoughtful gesture, the Devils gifted Ovi the net in which he plunked his 700th career goal.

"Incredible milestone for him to be able to what he's done," said Eller. "I could talk about 10 minutes how unique he is as a player and what he's done. I think he would have loved to do it at home, but now he got there and he can start looking at and targeting 800 now.

"We're all extremely happy for him and, like you said, a classy move by New Jersey to send him that. I hope he gets a nice ceremony, or a little video tonight or whatever they've got prepared. He definitely deserves all the praise."

"What the hell do you do with a net," Junkies host John-Paul Flaim asked.

"He frames it," his co-host John Auville shot back. "He puts it in his trophy room!"

"I know he has an idea for all of that memorabilia stuff and things," Eller replied. "I think yeah, there's a plan for that."

Asked if he keep much personal memorabilia in his own home, Eller said, "Yeah, I do actually. I've got quite a few things set up in my basement, some of the best memories from throughout my career – jerseys, pucks, pictures of different things that you always have in your house."

"And you walk by it, see it every day, and it reminds you of special memories and moments," he said. "I really like having that and I think a lot of players feel the same way. You know, some guys save jerseys, some guys save sticks and all kinds of different stuff. So everybody's got their own thing and what's important to them, but I think most guys have something in that regard."