50 Greatest New Jersey Devils Players of All Time: Numbers 30-21

Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Adam Henrique #14 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New Jersey Devils
Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

27. Ilya Kovalchuk

“Kovalchuk” is a bad word in these parts. However, as bad as the end was, we can’t ignore how good it was when it was good. Ilya Kovalchuk came to the New Jersey Devils with a ton of fanfare. he was the most dominant scorer in the league when he was traded to the New Jersey Devils. Just to put some context to it, Kovalchuk had 328 goals with the Atlanta Thrashers, which is one goal behind what Claude Giroux has right now. The Devils were getting the Alex Ovechkin of that era (even though Ovechkin was in the league at this point).

After he joined the Devils, Kovalchuk was good, but he wasn’t good enough to make the top 20. He had two really good seasons in New Jersey, scoring north of 30 goals in 2010-11 and 2011-12. In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he had 31 points in 37 games. Something was off. It wasn’t that he wasn’t giving 100 percent. He had a back injury that clearly lingered. Then, he devastated the Devils fanbase that offseason when he retired to play in the KHL.

Still, what Kovalchuk provided in 2012 was amazing. Despite playing with a list of injuries, he helped carry that Devils team past the Panthers, Flyers, and Rangers and into the Stanley Cup Final against the Kings. He scored eight goals, tied for the most of any player that playoffs. His five power-play goals also led all players.

It was a terrible end, but Kovalchuk was still great for a few seasons. Lamoriello swung for the fences to keep the end of Martin Brodeur’s career relevant. It almost worked.