Alexei Vyacheslavovich “Alex” Kovalev (born February 24, 1973) is a Russian professional ice hockey player who plays for HC Red Ice of the 1st Amateur League of Switzerland. He has also previously played in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with the Atlant Moscow Oblast and in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins (on two separate occasions), and the New York Rangers, with whom he was originally drafted and won a Stanley Cup in 1994, playing over 1,300 NHL games over 18 seasons.
Alexei Kovalev was drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, first round, 15th overall. He became the first Russian born player to be drafted in the first round in the history of the NHL. Best known for his stickhandling skills, dangling and wrist shot, he became an important part of the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup run, finishing with the third-most points for New York in the playoffs. Kovalev, Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Sergei Zubov were the first Russians to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. The Rangers’ Stanley Cup win is one that’s well remembered in Europe because of the first Russian names on the Stanley Cup, as MSG Network broadcaster Al Trautwigsaid in an essay for Garden of Dreams.
During the 1994–95 NHL lockout, Kovalev returned to Russia to play for his hometown team Lada Togliatti, the defendingInternational Hockey League champion from 1994. Kovalev scored 8 goals and 8 assists in 12 games. Kovalev occasionally stops in Tolyatti to give clinics at his old hockey school. He also participated in the Lada Tolyatti 30th anniversary game, and scored a hat trick for the Lada veterans team.
Just 14 games into the 1998–99 season, on November 25, 1998, he was traded, along with Harry York, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Petr Nedvěd, Sean Pronger and Chris Tamer. While only putting up 46 points in 63 games with the Penguins, he managed a strong effort with 12 points in 10 postseason games. The next few seasons, he recorded two of his best seasons in the NHL with 76 and 95 points.
In a trade to mainly reduce their salary, Pittsburgh sent Kovalev back to the Rangers on February 10, 2003. He was sent, along with Dan LaCouture, Janne Laukkanen and Mike Wilson for Mikael Samuelsson, Rico Fata, Joel Bouchard, Richard Lintner and cash.
On March 13, 2004 he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Jozef Balej and a second round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. While only managing 3 points in 12 games in the regular season, Kovalev broke out in the 2004 playoffs, where he registered 6 goals and 10 points in 11 games for Montreal.
He spent the 2004–05 NHL lockout playing for Ak Bars Kazan, in the Russian Super League (RSL), where he registered 23 points in 35 games. Kovalev played for Russia in the 2005 World Championships in Austria, and was named the tournament’s best forward.
As an unrestricted free agent, he re-signed with Montreal to a four-year contract, worth $4.5 million per year, on August 3, 2005, prior to the start of the 2005–06 NHL season. He scored his 300th career goal and recorded his 700th point on December 20, 2005 against Dominik Hašek in a 4–3 win against the Ottawa Senators.
In 2006, Warrior signed Kovalev to endorse their hockey sticks. Warrior designed a custom shaft known as the AK27.
In 2007, Kovalev sparked controversy when he allegedly criticized his team, coaching staff and the Montreal media in an interview done with a Russian reporter in his native language. Though the reporter who conducted the interview later rescinded Kovalev’s quotes, and the tape she used never surfaced, a majority of the fans and members of the media believe the criticism to have actually happened. This story was especially controversial due to the poor performance by Kovalev in the 2006–07 season, amassing only 18 goals, 29 assists for a total of 47 points.
During the 2007–08 season, Kovalev found a resurgence playing alongside linemates Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomáš Plekanec, recording a total of 35 goals, 49 assists for a total of 84 points in 82 games. As of the season’s completion, he stood at the 94th spot of the top 100 all-time NHL scorers. Because of his inspired play, Kovalev was awarded the Canadiens’ captaincy on two occasions during the season, replacing the injured Saku Koivu in his absence.
The following season, in 2008–09, Kovalev was named captain of the Eastern Conference at the 2009 NHL All-Star game in Montreal, and won Most Valuable Player honors as a result of his two goals, assist, and game-winning shootout goal. Late in the season with the Canadiens, Kovalev scored his 100th goal with the club on March 31, 2009, against former teammate and Canadiens goaltenderCristobal Huet of the Chicago Blackhawks. At the end of the week, he was named the NHL’s first star for the week ending April 5 after scoring 2 goals and 7 assists, helping lead the Canadiens to 3 wins during that time.
On July 6, 2009, Kovalev signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Ottawa Senators as an unrestricted free agent. On December 25, 2009, Kovalev was excluded from the roster for the Russian men’s hockey team for the 2010 Winter Olympics, to the surprise of fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin. On January 3, 2010, he scored a career-high 4 goals in a 7-4 win against thePhiladelphia Flyers.  On November 22, 2010, Kovalev netted his sixth goal of the season, scoring his 1,000th point in his career, notching the goal at exactly 10:00 of the first period against the Los Angeles Kings.
On February 24, 2011, his 38th birthday, Kovalev waived his no-trade clause to be traded back to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a conditional 7th Round Draft Pick. The pick would have been upgraded to the sixth round if the Penguins had reached the second round of the playoffs, which they did not. At the time of the trade, the Penguins were without twelve of their regulars, including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
After failing to sign with an NHL team for the 2011-12 season, Kovalev returned to his native Russia to play with the Atlant Moscow Oblast in the KHL.  In June of 2012 he was released from the two-year deal he signed with Atlant Moscow Oblast, at which point he declared his desire to return to the NHL. “Hopefully, I’ll find an NHL team,” Kovalev told the Montreal Gazette.
- Won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.
- Named NHL Offensive Player of the Week for November 6–12, 2000; November 5–11, 2001.
- Played in the NHL All-Star Game in 2001, 2003 and 2009.
- Named NHL Player of the Month in February 2001.
- Named the World Championship Best Forward in 2005.
- Won the Molson Cup (monthly) in November 2005, November 2007, December 2007, January and February 2008.
- Won the Molson Cup (season) in 2008.
- Won The Hockey News‘ Saku Koivu Award (comeback player of the year) in 2008.
- Named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2008.
- Won the NHL All-Star Game MVP Award in 2009.
- Named the NHL 1st Star of the Week for March 30–April 5, 2009.
- First Russian player to be drafted in the first round.
- First Russian player (along with Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Sergei Zubov) to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
- First Russian player to be a captain of an All-Star Team
- Captain of the 2009 NHL Eastern All-Star team
- Most Valuable Player of the 2009 NHL All-Star game
- November 23, 2010, recorded 1,000th (and 1,001st) career point(s) against the LA Kings notching a goal and an assist.
- Most NHL games played by a player born and trained in the former USSR (1,302).
Off the ice
Kovalev is a licensed aircraft pilot. He is married to Eugenia Kovalev.
Kovalev is a prominent endorsee of Warrior Hockey, making use of their range of products as a trademark which includes his own signature stick, the AK27. Kovalev was also pictured on the cover of EA Sports‘ NHL 95 scoring a goal on Kirk McLean of the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. In March 2008, Kovalev released a two-disc DVD titled My Hockey Tips and Training Methods. He is donating 100 percent of the DVD sale profits to charities that promote cardiac care for children. At age 8, Kovalev himself was diagnosed with a heart disorder that prevented him from playing hockey for two years while he underwent treatment.