Alexei Kovalev was drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, first round, 15th overall, becoming the first Russian player to be drafted in the first round. Kovalev, Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Sergei Zubov were the first Russians to have their name on the Stanley Cup as the Rangers would win it in 1994.
In November of 1998, he was traded, along with Harry York, to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Petr Nedved, Sean Pronger and Chris Tamer, with only 14 games played in the season. 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 had his best years yet with 76 and 95 points respectively.
In a trade to mainly reduce their salary, Pittsburgh sent Kovalev back to the Rangers on in February of 2003. In March of 2004, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. Kovalev has since produced moderately for Montreal, adding moments of offensive flourish to long periods of invisibility.
Kovalev is a great stickhandler and has the ability to snap off a terrific wrist shot. He is Montreal's top offensive talent, but still needs to add more consistency to his game to be a serious threat around the league. Kovalev is very creative.