While most of the Avalanche’s prospects are waiting for rookie camp and their seasons to begin, those in Europe have a head start on theirs. The KHL and Russian junior MHL begin in early September but the junior club Loko Yaroslavl with Nikolai Kovalenko reconvened early for the Junior Club World Cup in Sochi.
The JCWC is a tournament comprised of eight junior teams from various nations including an all-star team from Canada’s Junior A CCHL, the Red Bulls Academy in Austria, U20 from Jokerit in Finland and as tradition the reigning U20 champions from the Swedish and Russian leagues. Those two, HV71 and Loko, we’re fated to meet in the finals and did just that.
Through the tournament Kovalenko was one of the leading scorers and finished tied for tops in the tournament along with teammate Vladislav Rybakov with eight points, as they both outscored their high draft pedigree teammate Grigori Denisenko who had four points. Kovalenko scored three goals and five assists including the opening goal for Loko in the finals as seen below. He also drew the penalty which allowed Loko to make a third period comeback to win the gold medal 3-2 over HV71. It was the second gold medal for Loko in three years and also gave them the achievement of the first team to win the tournament twice.
For his efforts Kovalenko was named both top forward and MVP of the tournament. Not only his scoring touch made a difference but his non-stop work ethic especially on the penalty kill did as well. He nearly single handedly killed an entire two minute 5-on-3 early in the finals game. The way he hunts the puck and protects it to make plays plus his tenacity along the boards and unrelenting drive were all on display in those five games in an impressive performance.
Though maybe just a preseason tournament among junior competition won’t have much impact on Kovalenko’s season but regardless is a great way to begin especially after a busy summer with the draft and development camp. It remains to be seen if Kovalenko will spend a significant portion of time or even begin on the men’s team with Lokomotiv in the KHL but surely he will make an impact wherever he plays.
#JCWC: Nice play off a faceoff by LHD Mark Pavlikov (2019/1999) to find C Nikolai Kovalenko (COL 6th/2018) on the doorstep and tie score 1-1 for Loko against HV71. Kovalenko leads the tournament in scoring with 3-5-8 in 5 GP. pic.twitter.com/kTxronfZ39
— Steve Kournianos (@TheDraftAnalyst) August 26, 2018
Check out Kovalenko and Loko for yourself in the archive of the entire final game. Commentary is even in English!
Prospect Weekly will return regularly in early October unless those already playing in Europe keep providing noteworthy performances.