Ilya Valeryevich Kovalchuk (Russian: Илья Валерьевич Ковальчук; born April 15, 1983) is a Russian professional ice hockey left winger, who is currently the team captain of the Atlanta Thrashers of the National Hockey League.
Kovalchuk played for Russian Super League club HC Spartak Moscow for two seasons before entering the NHL. Drafted by the Thrashers first overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, he became the first Russian ice hockey player to be drafted first overall in the NHL's history. In club-level competition, Kovalchuk wore the number 17 as a tribute to Valeri Kharlamov, a Soviet superstar in the 1970s. When Kovalchuk played for his national team he wore number 71.
Kovalchuk finished second to teammate Dany Heatley in the voting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2002. Both were named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. In the 2003-04 NHL Season Kovalchuk scored 41 goals, making him a co-winner of the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy after tying for the league lead in goals along with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash. He also added 46 assists for 87 points, tied with Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche for second in the league that season, behind Martin St. Louis. Kovalchuk...
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