The New York Islanders announced on Monday morning that they agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with Czech center Jan Kovar.
Most recently, the 28-year-old has played for Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL, which is based in Russia and considered the second-best professional league in the world where he’s developed into one of its best players.
Over the past five seasons, Kovar has averaged more than a point per game, racking up 97 goals and 189 assists (286 points) in 285 games.
He helped Magnitogorsk win a pair of Gagarin Cups and was a two-time KHL All-Star.
On the international stage, he’s represented the Czech Republic in seven different tournaments, most recently acting as an alternate captain for his country at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. He recorded three goals and two assists in six games at the tournament.
He’s not going to provide a lot of size at center, standing just 5-foot-10 and 171 pounds, but Kovar is a playmaker with great vision. His comfort on the puck and soft hands allow him to stickhandle into open spaces and create open looks for teammates.
Add a quick release on a dangerous wrist shot and the Islanders are looking at a talent that could center their second power-play unit:
There is also a possibility that Kovar could get an opportunity to center New York’s second line based on what he’s shown in the KHL. Granted, it’s a sizable transition to move from Europe to the NHL so expecting a point-per-game average would be unfair.
But the Islanders are looking for a legitimate second-line center to work alongside Jordan Eberle and Anthony Beauvillier. Rookie of the Year Mathew Barzal is expected to be promoted to the team’s first line after the departure of John Tavares, leaving a significant vacancy. The team is reported to be in talks for Ottawa Senators scorer Matt Duchene, which would provide the team with a proven No. 2 center moving forward.