Few players in NHL history have matched Alexei Kovalev’s talent level.
The man can dangle. He can freeze defenders with his one-on-one moves, snap wicked wrist shots on goal and create scoring opportunities with his deft passing.
He has scored 1,027 points in 1,304 NHL games. Once upon a time, in 2000-01, he scored 95 points for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a single season. More recently he scored 84 points for the Montreal Canadiens in 2007-08.
But injuries and flickering motivation kept him from reaching his full potential. After an unhappy stint in Ottawa, he spent 2011-12 playing for Moscow Oblast Atlant of the KHL.
He didn’t play anywhere this season when the NHL lockout sent a lot of younger NHL players overseas to fill roles. Now Kovalev, who turns 40 in a month, has resurfaced with the go-go Florida Panthers.
He delivered a blast from the past with his three-point game in Florida’s opener. He joined fellow old-timers Teemu Selanne (Anaheim Ducks), Jaromir Jagr (Dallas Stars) and Ray Whitney (Stars) in delivering a fast start.
“There was a really low percentage that I thought I would be back, but I worked hard for it,” Kovalev told the Ottawa Citizen. “I still love this game, I enjoy being on the ice.
“I have nothing to prove, but I’m just enjoying that feeling of winning and hopefully, we can be a part of the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup again. There’s still motivation, there’s still something I’m looking forward to.”