Kovalchuk was sixth in the NHL during the 2011-12 season with 37 goals and fifth with 83 points, and had 19 points in 23 games to help the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final, despite playing through a back injury.
A native of Tver, Russia, Kovalchuk played for Spartak Moscow before he was chosen by the Atlanta Thrashers with the first pick of the 2001 NHL Draft.
It was kind of touching. I didn't know really what to expect. I'm very appreciative and thankful for the people that supported me in my time here ... as I said, we'll move back to the area at some point in our life.
— Toronto coach Randy Carlyle on the video tribute and ovation he received in his first game back in Anaheim, a 3-1 win for the Maple Leafs