NHL: Why Ilya Kovalchuk Is the Key to the New Jersey Devils' Success in 2013

Joseph Kuchie@@jkuchieCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2013

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 07:  Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils in action against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center on February 7, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Lightning 4-2.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

While the statistics may not show it so far this season, Ilya Kovalchuk will still be the key to the New Jersey Devils' future success.

Kovalchuk currently has four goals and six assists through the team's first 12 games, ranking him third on the team in points behind David Clarkson and Patrik Elias.

While only four goals for a player who averages at least 30 per season may be discouraging, Kovalchuk is doing other things that are helping the Devils win.

For one, his presence on the penalty kill has led to the unit's success so far in 2013. New Jersey has a success rate of 86.2 percent, ranking it seventh in the league, and also ranks first in the league with three short-handed goals—two of which belong to Kovalchuk.

The power play has also been successful as of late due to Kovalchuk's abilities at the point. Although Kovalchuk has not scored a power-play goal this year, the man advantage has still scored 11 of the team's 33 total goals and currently has a 20.8 percent success rate.

Most importantly, Kovalchuk has eaten up a large amount of ice time while New Jersey finds a solution for losing Zach Parise on the top line. Kovy is averaging 26 minutes per game, ranking him first amongst all forwards in the NHL and 10th amongst all players, and is currently getting time on both the first and fourth lines.

While he may not be lighting up the scoreboard, Kovalchuk is still leading by example and making players around him better. The goals are eventually going to come, but until then, the Devils will continue to find a way to win and stay atop the Eastern Conference.

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