The New York Islanders signed Jan Kovar to a single year deal this offseason. What should the Isles expect from a player that put up a point-per-game in the KHL?
Jan Kovar comes to the New York Islanders with five years of KHL experience and just over a point-per-game for his career. In 285 games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk Kovar has 286 points. He has four seasons with 50 points or more, and an out of character 34 point season in 2017-18.
We know that in the KHL Kovar converts on about 13.6 percent of his shots. We also know that he’s dominant in the faceoff circle with a 56.3 percent win ratio. (See Kovar’s KHL stats page for some of those numbers.)
We also know that’s at the KHL level. A level far below that of the NHL. Assuming Kovar makes the New York Islanders roster in 2018-19, what can we expect from Kovar?
With Kovar, the Islanders have a guy that’s able to drive play down the middle. His skill on the faceoff circle won’t be lost by heading over to North America. And his ability to finish won’t either.
Sure, he had a down year in 2017-18. But that’s largely due to a roster change that had Denis Zapirov banned for using an illegal substance. With the Islanders, he’ll likely be slotted between forty goal-scorer Anders Lee and 71 point playmaker Josh Bailey. He’s going to have great wingmates.
With all of that, it’s still important to manage expectations. Again, the NHL is vastly different from the KHL.
The big issue for Kovar is, will he be able to find the same opening he did with the smaller ice of the NHL? On Olympic sized rinks with an extra 13 feet of space, it’s easier to find space to drift from opponents. On smaller rinks with better opponents, the openings become virtually non-existent.
And there’s still that issue of the down year in 2017-18. Sure, he lost a valuable linemate, but the measure of a good player is being able to get good results no matter who he’s playing with. Dropping 28 with the loss of a teammate isn’t a good look.
Expect What Then?
The expectations for Kovar shouldn’t be too high. Making the team, playing a full season and adding 30 points should be considered a success for the first year NHL player.
Obviously, this is only an expectation. It’s not his ceiling. Based on his skill set and with good linemates Kovar could just as easily be a 50 point player in the NHL.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
Manage your expectations with Jan Kovar and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised at the end of the 2018-19 season.