Ilya Kovalchuk’s addition to the Montreal Canadiens made big news last week, as 2001’s first overall pick stopped on the Habs when making his choice on his next destination after a failed stint with the Los Angeles Kings.
Should he make his debut on Monday against the Winnipeg Jets, Kovalchuk will join a long list of Russian-born players who played for the bleu-blanc-rouge, with varying degrees of success. Some were drafted by the team and worked their way up the ranks through the American Hockey League to Montreal. Others signed as free agents, hoping to rekindle their careers in the hockey-mad city. Some did well. Others flamed out for one reason or another.
The first Russian-born player drafted by the Montreal Canadiens was Hall of Famer Viacheslav Fetisov in 1978, then it was goaltending legend Vladislav Tretiak in 1983. Neither one would play for the Canadiens, however. It wouldn’t be until 1991 when the Canadiens would draft and develop a Russian-born player to play in the National Hockey League.
Ilya Kovalchuk is set to become the 20th Russian-born player in franchise history. Can you name all the previous ones?