MOSCOW -- Former New Jersey Devils player Ilya Kovalchuk says he will captain the Russian national team at this year's hockey world championship.

Kovalchuk, who left the NHL for SKA St. Petersburg in 2013, tells Russian media that coach Oleg Znarok gave him the captain's role on Tuesday, a day before the Russian team departs for the tournament in the Czech Republic.

Kovalchuk has captained the Russian team before, but was overlooked in favour of Pavel Datsyuk for last year's Olympics in Sochi. A knee injury kept him out of Russia's team as it won the world championship three months later.

The Russian team visited the grave of Soviet player Valery Kharlamov on Tuesday before departing for the Czech Republic, where its group stage opponents include Finland and the United States.