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Russian Teammates Say Ilya Kovalchuk is a 'Machine' at World Championship

'He's one of those types of guys you want to play with and you want to always be around him.'

by Aaron Vickers @AAVickers /

His accolades? Certainly ample.

His reputation? More than solidified.

His legacy? Lasting, to those around longtime Russian icon Ilya Kovalchuk.

And one to learn from.

"He's a machine," Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov said. "He started playing from 18 years old in the NHL. He's still in really good shape, and still a really good player. He's a really professional player and young players can learn a lot from him."

Orlov is teammates with Kovalchuk at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia, an event that has Kovalchuk building on top of an already significant international resume.

And an already impressive international reputation.

"It's always good when you keep your agreement to play for the National team," said Kovalchuk, who had 34 points (16-18=34) in his first season with the LA Kings in 2018-19 and has 850 points (433-417=850) in 880 career NHL games.

"When you get the opportunity you go and try your hardest."

Kovalchuk, now 36, has done more than that on the global stage over the course of almost two decades.

He's since become the most decorated Russian player in its history.

His international checklist spans back to the turn of the millennium, commencing with a Gold Medal at the IIHF World Under-17 Challenge in January of 2000.

Silver at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship that same year.

Bronze -- as well as a host of personal nominations ranging from most goals (11), most points (15), a top forward nod and an all-star appearance -- at the same tournament a season later.

Another bronze, too, from the 2012 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Bronze again at both with the Men's National team in 2005 and 2007.

Then, most memorable to some of his younger teammates, a golden finish in 2008 -- Russia's first at the event in 15 years.

"He's great," Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov started. "In 2008, when they won the first Gold, and he scored the game-winner in overtime ... I was a little kid. I was 13 years old. I was cheering in my bed. It was a late game, too, 2 a.m."

"I remember being a kid and watching the World Championship when we won the first time in 15 years," echoed New York Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev. "Kovalchuk scored the game-winner.

"Now it feels unreal that we're on the same team."

Not just on the same team.

Georgiev and his crew are being captained by Kovalchuk.

"It's always a big honor," said Kovalchuk, who has five points (2-3=5) in six games. "It's a lot of responsibility.

"I try to do it well."

Kovalchuk, modest on the honor but no means a stranger to leading Russia's efforts, is more important to the role than he leads on.

"He's huge inside (the room)," Washington Capitals center Evgeni Kuznetsov said. "He's one of those types of guys you want to play with and you want to always be around him.

"You can learn a lot."

How to win, is one.

In addition to his pre-gold exploits in 2008, Kovalchuk doubled up with another first-place finish in 2009. He's also got silver medals in 2010 and 2015.

A Gold Medal with the Olympic Athletes from Russia at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics also rests in his collection, as does two Gagarin Cup titles as Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) champion.

And growing.

"I mean, he's great," Orlov said. "Everybody respects him. He's the oldest player in our group and he's the captain of our team. He always gives his help to all our team's players. If it's not going your way he's always going to come to you and give you a good response.

"It's always nice to have those guys in the locker room."

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