NHL DRAFT 2001: Ilja Kovalchuk’s Draft Manual

By Eugene Belashchenko

Whose play was so amazing during the 1999 Canada Cup Challenge Under-17 that his stick was demanded so it could be placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for the first time in the history of international hockey? Ilya Kovalchuk, that’s who! Ilya is one of the most exciting prospects, or more likely the most exciting prospect in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

(for more information, interviews, articles, photographs and etc. please
visit http://www.russianprospects.com)

Talent Analysis:

At 6’2 and 205 pounds, Ilya Kovalchuk already has the size to be a force in the NHL. As many Russian players, he will probably add more bulk after crossing over to North America. This young star has the skills to complement his great athleticism. As one scout put it “He’s big, tough and he’s got the puck all night,”. His explosive skating has been compared to that of the likes of Bure and is able to maneuver through heavy traffic. Besides being a powerful goal scorer, Ilya is also a great playmaker, possessing great puckhandling skills. Ilya’s great size would not have been as an effective asset without his great intensity. Ilya uses his size to fight for the puck and does not hesitate to get his hands dirty in a physical game, leading this season Spartak Moscow with 78 penalty minutes. Ilya is also a very feisty player, constantly getting into fights with his opponents. In an interview with the Sport Express Newspaper that is available in a link below, he explained his involvement in fights with the following reasoning: “Other teams have the same young players like me and when they begin to beat our veterans, we have to get out there and help them out”. This irreplaceable team player quality Ilya possesses makes him an appealing player for any team.

Back In Russia:

In Russia, Ilya started his career with HC Tver, the farm team for Dynamo Moscow. After a year with Dynamo, Ilya signed a short term contract with Spartak, which was on its way to North America and needed additional forwards. Ilya fit with Spartak’s offensive style of play, which was very different on Dynamo’s emphasis on defense, and decided to stay with the club, despite its demotion into the Upper League from the primary Super League. During the 1999-2000 season Ilya spent the majority of his time with Spartak’s junior team, amassing 70 goals, twice as many as the next highest scorer in the League. In July 2000, Ilya was drafted by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 10th overall in the CHL Entry Draft. The Eagles gambled that the young star may cross to North America this year. However, Ilya made the decision to stay with Spartak Moscow for the 2000-01 season. Ilya’s justified his decision in an interview with the following: “What good is going to be for me going there and getting 100 points per season with relative ease. Am I going to reach my pick there prior to moving up to the NHL?”

International Competition:

On the International scene, Ilya has been a force to be reckoned with. In the 2000 Five Nations Tournament Ilya was acknowledged as the best forward, scoring 6 points (4+2). At the 1999 Canada Challenge Cup for under-17 teams, Ilya delivered an amazing performance. In the tournament he scored 14 points (10+4) in only six games. The hockey experts present at the tournament were so impressed with the Russian’s performance that for the first time in history of international hockey, they demanded his hockey stick for the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Ilya started off the 2000-01 season fairly slow, ranking 6th on the team in scoring after the mid point of the season. However, during the second half of the season, especially after the lack luster performance at the 2001 World Junior Championships, Ilya picked his game up, rising to third in points and second in goals with 43 points and 25 goals in only 39 games. Ilya played well, but not great at the 2001 World Junior Championships, scoring only 6 points (4+2) in seven games. However, as he explains in the interview you can read at www.russianprospects.com, the reason for the team’s low finish was it lack of cohesion as a single unit. The story was very different at the 2001 Under 18 World Junior Championship where the Russian team blew out all of the competition, capturing the gold without a single close game during the entire tournament. Ilja himself lead everyone with 11 goals in just six games.


Ilya will likely be drafted #1 overall in the 2001 NHL entry draft. Many scouts consider him a better pick then Jason Spezza, who has been closely observed in the OHL for the last three years. Some scouts even went as far as to state that this young Russian star is on the path to eclipse Pavel Bure and once scout even considered him to be the best prospect since Mario Lemieux. Maybe it is worth it for a team to finish the season badly last to get a player like this?

(for more information, interviews, articles, photographs and etc. please
visit http://www.russianprospects.com)