Kovalchuk finished second to teammate Dany Heatley in the voting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2002. Both were named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. In the 2003-04 NHL Season Kovalchuk scored 41 goals, making him a co-winner of the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy after tying for the league lead in goals along with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash. He also added 46 assists for 87 points, tied with Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche for second in the league that season, behind Martin St. Louis. Kovalchuk also participated in the 2004 NHL All-Star Game. During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Kovalchuk played with Ak Bars Kazan. After the lockout, Kovalchuk scored 52 goals in 2005-06, which tied him with Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for third in the league in goal-scoring. He also tied his career-high of 46 assists for a career-high 98 points, finishing 8th overall in scoring and leading the Atlanta Thrashers in scoring for the second consecutive season. He also became the first Thrashers player to score 50 goals in a season. In the 2006-07 NHL season, Kovalchuk's point production dropped for the first time in his career. He finished with 42 goals and 34 assists for 76 points. Despite his drop in production, Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers qualified for the playoffs for the first time. The team would lose to the New York Rangers in four games, but Kovalchuk would score one goal and one assist in the series.
In 2006 Kovalchuk played in the Torino Winter Olympics as a member of the Russian men's hockey team, and had a four-goal game on February 19 in a 9–2 win over Latvia, but returned to Atlanta without a medal.
In 2006, Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz said Kovalchuk "always plays with an illegal stick." The NHL has subsequently, as of the 2006–07 season, changed the rules on stick curvature to allow for a much more curved stick than was previously allowed. Kovalchuk, under the new rules, claims to play only with a legal stick.
On November 1, 2007 and November 3, 2007, Kovalchuk scored two consecutive hat-tricks despite a loss to the Ottawa Senators and the win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had a goal in the next game but lost the chance to score a hat-trick due to being injured midway through. It would have been an NHL record had he scored a third consecutive hat-trick.
On 2008-05-18 Kovalchuk played in the IIHF Championship Game in Quebec City, Canada where he scored just twice. However, he scored the tying goal in the final game for the Gold medal to bring the game to overtime and then the game winner goal to give Russia its long-awaited gold medal.
|1999-00||HC Spartak Moscow||RSL-2||49||12||5||17||75||--||--||--||--||--|
|1999-00||HC Spartak Moscow||RSL-3||2||2||1||3||14||--||--||--||--||--|
|2000-01||HC Spartak Moscow||RSL||40||28||18||46||78||12||14||4||18||38|
|2004-05||Ak Bars Kazan||RSL||53||19||23||42||72||4||0||1||1||0|
Played for Russia in:
|2000||WJC-U18||6||2||3 Seven Ten||5||6|
|Junior Int'l Totals||19||17||9||26||69|
|Senior Int'l Totals||57||20||18||38||127|