Alex Kovalev of the Ottawa Senators joined an elite group Monday when he became the 76th player in NHL history to score 1,000 regular-season points. He reached the milestone with a first-period goal Monday against Dallas, then started on his next 1,000 points by assisting on Jason Spezza's game-winner in Ottawa's 3-2 victory.
"It's kind of hard for me to imagine but I'm just really proud," Kovalev said afterward. "It's a good achievement, I just don't know how to describe it."
Kovalev also joined an even more select club when he reached 1,000 points -- he became only the 10th European-born and -trained player (Stan Mikita, though born in Czechoslovakia, doesn't count because he learned his hockey in Canada) to get that many points. He's also just the third Russian, joining Sergei Fedorov (1,179, 47th on the all-time list) and Alex Mogilny (1,032, 66th).
Kovalev is the second European (and second Senator) to reach the 1,000-point mark this season. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson completed a hat trick in Buffalo on Oct. 22 by scoring into an empty net for point No. 1,000.
The addition of Alfredsson and Kovalev boosted the number of European 1,000-point scorers by 25 percent. But it could be awhile before another European reaches the 1,000-point mark. No current European player has reached the 800-point mark. But with some of the NHL's top scorers hailing from the other side of the Atlantic, there could be an interesting race to see who's next.
Here's a look at some of the European candidates to join the 1,000-point club:
Marian Hossa, Chicago
Points: 788 in 853 games
Hossa, a native of Slovakia, leads all active European-born and -trained players in points. He has the advantage of playing with the Blackhawks, one of the NHL's elite teams, and has averaged .93 points per game for his career. Despite missing time with an injury, he has 17 points in 18 games this season.
At his current pace, Hossa would need to play another 225 games to reach 1,000 points, meaning he could get the milestone some time early in the 2013-14 season. But injuries could be a problem. Besides missing time earlier this season, he played just 57 games (51 points) last season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Still, he has to be considered the favorite because he has a big lead over other European stars.
Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey
Points: 652 in 644 games
Even with his slow start this season (10 points in 20 games), Kovalchuk has been a point-a-game player since arriving in the NHL with Atlanta in 2001. He's scored 40 or more goals in each of his last six seasons, though he has just 4 this season, and has at least 76 points in every season since 2003-04.
At his current pace, Kovalchuk would need about 340 more games to reach 1,000 points, putting him there early in the 2014-15 season. But that assumes he continues at his career pace -- which is a lot faster than his pace with the Devils this season. Kovalchuk was the focus of the offense from the time he arrived in the NHL with the Thrashers until the Devils acquired him last February. Since then, he's struggled to fit into New Jersey's system, first under coach Jacques Lemaire and this season under new coach John MacLean.
With a 15-year contract, he's not going anywhere, and it's hard to believe that a player of Kovalchuk's talent won't finish his career with well over 500 goals (he already has 342) and 1,000 points. Whether he can outrace the competition is another question.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington
Points: 561 in 418 games
Ovechkin has outscored everyone in the NHL since arriving in the League with the Washington Capitals in 2005 (Sidney Crosby is next with 541 points). Through his first five-plus seasons, he's averaging 1.33 points per game -- roughly 4 points for every three games he plays. He's actually slightly below that pace this season, with 26 points in 22 games (1.18 per game).
Ovechkin plays on a team that scores more goals than any other in the NHL. Under coach Bruce Boudreau, Ovi has more freedom to think offense than any other player in the NHL. His 65 goals in 2007-08 are the most by any player since the mid 1990s. He never has scored fewer than 92 points in a season and has broken 50 goals and 100 points in four of his first five seasons.
At his current pace, Ovi would reach the 1,000-point milestone in 335 more games, meaning he'd get there early in 2014-15 -- and putting him in a race with Kovalchuk to become the fourth Russian to get there. Both players are big, strong, fast and talented. However, Ovechkin is much more of a physical player, making him more susceptible to injuries -- he missed 10 games to injuries and suspensions last season after missing just four (three for a family matter) in his first four seasons.
Milan Hedjuk, Colorado
Points: 727 in 859 games
Hedjuk's offensive totals have been declining the past few seasons, but he has 26 points in Colorado's first 23 games this season -- a pace that would produce his best season since his 50-goal, 98 performance in 2002-03. With 727 points, Hedjuk trails only Hossa in points among active European players, but even at his career pace of .84 points per game, he would need about 330 more games to reach 1,000 points -- and he'd be 38 by then.
Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit
Points: 616 in 627 games
Datsyuk's brilliance as a defensive forward sometimes obscures the fact that he's also an offensive force. He averaged 92 points in the four seasons from 2005-09 before dropping to 70 last season -- but he already has 22 points in Detroit's 20 games this season, a pace that would give him 92 on the year. At his career pace of nearly a point a game, would need about 390 more games, or nearly five full seasons, to reach 1,000 points. Fellow Russians Kovalchuk and Ovechkin, who began their NHL careers at a younger age than Datsyuk (23 when he debuted in 2001-02), are likely to get there first.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin
Points: 599 in 750 games (Henrik); 574 in 727 games (Daniel)
Vancouver's twins may get to 1,000 points (becoming the first twins to do so), but they'll be hard-pressed to get there before players like Hossa, Kovalchuk or Ovechkin. Still, both are coming off their best seasons in the NHL and have produced 27 points in 22 games for the Canucks this season. Even if they produce at last season's rate of roughly 1.36 points per game, they each would need nearly five full seasons to reach 1,000 points -- by which time Hossa, Kovalchuk and Ovechkin (and maybe more) should be past that mark.