The Ascension of Alexei Emelin

Photo: François Lacasse, Getty Images

Photo: François Lacasse, Getty Images

I remember when Alexei Emelin was finally signed by Pierre Gauthier on May 17th, 2011, Canadiens fans were ecstatic. They were happy because Emelin was drafted back in the 2004 NHL draft with the Canadiens 3rd round selection, but had yet to commit to coming over to North America. Fans were even more excited because they had heard the comparisons to Darius Kasparaitis. Moreover, some had heard the bold claim that Pierre McGuire made when he said he was “the best defense-man outside the NHL.”

Everything seemed perfect. Emelin was to be the Russian replacement for Andrei Markov’s old d-partner, Mike Komisarek. However, that dream quickly dissipated when it became known (not by the Canadiens, but instead by Tony Marinaro) that Markov had a set-back and would not play until long into the season. By the time Markov did return on March 10th, 2012 against the Canucks, Emelin’s plus/minus was already -10. When Markov did return and he played with him, he managed to go down an additional -8 as the season winded down.

However, while he showed a lack of North American experience and lack of NHL experience, Emelin displayed great skating ability, solid penalty killing skills, a strong slap shot, and that he was perhaps, the best hitter in the NHL.

Victim #1: Pavelski

Victim #2: Erik Cole

This season he played for Kazan AK-Bars for 24 games and accumulated 9 points (2 g, 7 a), 40 PIM and a +1 goal differential. That is nearly .40 point per game ratio in a good league.

Now he is in the NHL again and has the rejuvenated Andrei Markov as his defense partner. Emelin currently has 1 assist in 5 games and has a +0 goal differential. Perhaps more telling, however, is that he is averaging 21:51 minutes per game this season, playing more even strength than ice-time leader, Andrei Markov himself.

Habs icetime so far

Last night against the Winnipeg Jets, Emelin registered 8 hits, one of which launched power-forward, Evander Kane, into the stanchion.

If Emelin can continue progressing at this rate, hopefully with the continued help of the Russian communication factor, he can develop and transition into what veteran Roman Hamrlik gave the Canadiens.

Go Habs Go!

Joël Gabbay

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