We all know what Ilya Kovalchuk has done since he broke into the league eight seasons ago. He has scored 40+ goals in six straight seasons and been over a point per game in 5 of the last 6. He has scored 52 goals twice and broken 90 pts twice. And he has done it all on a Thrashers team that made the playoffs just once.
I believe that Kovalchuk will not only continue to score 40 goals a season, but he will also notch around 50 assists each seasonor more and is very likely to top the 100-pt mark.
Kovalchuk is a mind-boggling 14.8% shooter for his career and has gotten an average of 3.7 shots per game. In 49 games with Atlanta, he had 31 goals, 27 assists, and 179 SOG for a shooting percentage of 17.3% and 3.7 shots per game. In 27 games with the Devils, he had 10 goals, 17 assists, and 111 SOG for a shooting percentage of 9.0% and 4.1 shots per game.
Three things jump out here:
(1) To go from 3.7 shots per game (which is also his career average) to 4.1 shots per game is a significant jump.
(2) A shooting percentage of 9.0% is a far cry from his career 14.8%.
(3) His 17 assists in 27 games as a Devil was, at 0.63 APG, a higher rate than the 27 assists in 49 games he notched with Atlanta (0.55 APG) as well as the 0.53 APG rate he has posted over the last six seasons (I don't think it's fair to include his rookie and sophomore campaigns when assist numbers depend so much on the maturation of his team play).
As far as the SOG go, you might make the argument that he shot more because he was anxious to score goals for his new team. The more likely explanation, though, is that he got more shots on goal because his team was spending more time in the offensive zone. Furthermore, I personally got the sense that he was looking to pass more than necessary at times in order to endear himself better to his teammates. He could very well be capable of notching 4.0-4.5 shots per goal this season. And that's not even factoring in the fact that Johnny Mac preaches "shoot, shoot, shoot" at every opportunity he gets.
His poor shooting percentage as a Devil could be due to poor chemistry with his linemates, poor shot selection, or inaccurate passing by his linemates. Or perhaps the Thrashers' style put him in position to have better shot opportunities. I think it's very likely, though, that he returns to somewhere close to his career shooting percentage as a Devil. Let's suppose that his shooting percentage ends up somewhere between 12.0% to 16.0%
The higher APG rate makes sense, given that he has better teammates and more time spent in the offensive zone. Yet he achieved that in spite of not being fully comfortable with his linemates. I look for his APG rate to range between 0.60 to 0.70.
When you combine all of these things you get a goal total that is 38.4 at the low end (4.0 x 12% x 80 GP) and 57.6 at the high end (4.5 x 16% x 80 GP). His assists would range from 48 to 56. His total points would range from 86 at the low end to 114 at the high end.
I've made a lot of big assumptions here, and perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but I think this is a reasonable argument to expect something close to a 50-50-100 stat line out of Kovalchuk.
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