BROSSARD - Nate Thompson spent a bit of time with Ilya Kovalchuk when the pair were both members of the Los Angeles Kings.
Kovalchuk signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens on Friday, and Thompson says the team has inherited quite a workhorse in the Atlanta Thrashers' first-overall pick in 2001.
"I saw his work ethic and the way he works in the gym and on the ice. He's still very competitive and still wants to win and do well. I think that'll be good for us; it'll be good for some of our young guys to see him," shared Thompson, who overlapped with Kovalchuk in Southern California for 53 games in 2018-19. "I'm sure some guys are going to be a little bit in awe; it's Ilya Kovalchuk and he's had a pretty good career in this League."
In the room, Kovalchuk was a positive presence and should provide the Canadiens with a jolt of energy as they deal with a handful of injuries to key members of the offensive corps.
"He's a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. He really loves the game; he's passionate about the game. That's why he works so hard: he wants to do well, he wants to compete, he wants to get better," outlined Thompson of Kovalchuk, who has 436 goals and 423 assists for 859 points in 897 career games with the Thrashers, New Jersey Devils, and Kings. "I think it'll be good for us; it'll be good for young guys to see that. He's going to bring some good enthusiasm to our team."
The Habs found out about the signing on Friday morning, and it no doubt caught them a little off-guard. But the players recognized that the move was a signal from general manager Marc Bergevin that he wasn't giving up on a squad that has held its own despite some serious adversity in the injury department.
"We were also surprised. Marc has made some transactions to help us out. He sees we're not playing badly and we've deserved a better outcome in some games," outlined Phillip Danault. "It for sure can help us out."
A two-time 50-goal scorer and an Olympic gold medallist, Danault and the Habs are certainly excited to have a player of Kovalchuk's pedigree arrive in the room.
"Kovy has always been a sniper. He'll have to find his place here. He works very hard," echoed Danault of the 36-year-old Russian forward. "I don't know him personally, but I've heard that he works extremely hard in the gym and on the ice."
The Habs' power play is currently operating at a 22.9% clip, good for ninth in the League, and Danault feels that adding Kovalchuk into the mix can only help it improve.
"He's going to be useful on the power play," said Danault of Kovalchuk, who has 143 career markers with the man advantage to his name. "His shot is still dangerous and it definitely can't hurt us."
Newcomer Marco Scandella may have been enjoying the novelty of meeting all his new teammates at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday, but the magnitude of the Kovalchuk acquisition wasn't lost on the 10-year veteran.
"That's special; he's a special player. He's been a great player in this League, an impact player, for years. It's going to be good to have him. He's dangerous out there," he concluded. "It's going to be great."