A Closer Look At Yemelin's Penalty & Scoring Stats
Montreal Canadiens fans attention has recently turned to Russian defenseman Alexei Yemelin, and the progress being made to bring this prospect over from the KHL. While anticipation and optimism levels are positive, there is no doubt a certain level of concern whenever a Russian player hits the Bell Centre. Is he another Andrei Markov or Andrei Kostitsyn? Is his attendance record anything like namesake Alexei Kovalev? Will he be run out of town faster than a Russian rocket? We can get a hint from his recent statictics.
Time will tell. But in the interim, most of what is being said about Yemelin is that 1) he led his team in PIM this year, 2) his offensive numbers were impressive this past season, and 3) he has a few punishing hits posted on YouTube.
You can watch the video clips of his big hits and judge for yourselves as to their impact, severity, and even legality. You can also draw your own conclusions if they make Yemelin appear as a player with "an edge" or not, something very much desired by most Habs fans.
Having a closer look at his penalty statistics as well as scoring outburst may also help us answer the questions of whether Yemelin is a driver or passenger, and whether he plays with an edge or just goes with the flow. The last thing the Canadiens need is a defenseman that will be forced into situations where he only adds to their league-leading minor penalty totals.
Leading your team in PIM, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it all depends on the penalties taken. Yemelin is credited with 114 PIM, which include two 10-min Misconducts as well as one 20-min Game Misconduct. All three of these calls were the results of "checking to the head or neck area". His remaining 74 PIM are broken down as follows:
# - Penalty
6 - Holding
6 - Tripping
5 - Hooking
3 - Checking to Head or Neck Area
3 - Roughing
3 - Boarding
3 - Interference
2 - Elbowing
2 - Kneeing
1 - Charging
1 - Cross-checking
1 - Slashing
1 - Illegal Equipment
These statistics become interesting when we break them down into either penalties of an "aggressive" nature or penalties of a "passive" nature (hooking, holding, tripping, slashing): 18 aggressive penalties vs. 18 passive penalties. In contrast, PK Subban's 124 minutes this past season can be broken down into 19 aggressive penalties (including 4 fighting majors) vs. 27 passive penalties. Despite lacking detailed context for each penalty, it does give you a hint as to the nature of the player and what they feel comfortable doing on the ice.
Yemelin racked up 11 Goals and 16 Assists for a career high 27 Points this season with Ak Bars Kazan. 7 of those goals were scored on the Power Play. The numbers are not a concern to most Habs fans, they'd gladly accept a similar output next season. What is a concern is the frequency of scoring impact. Or more pointedly, how frequently will the player show up to play and how often will they simply mail it in on the ice.
Without going back and watching each of the 52 games he played in last season (any Ak Bars Kazan season-ticket holders following this blog?) looking at Yemelin's numbers reveals an encouraging trend, or at least one that isn't obviously discouraging, with regards to his involvement in the play. Yemelin recorded at least a point or was a Plus player in 31 of his 52 games played, versus not recording a point and being either Even or Negative 21 times. Of those 21 games, it is split pretty evenly between games he was blanked in points and finished Even, vs being blanked in points and finishing a Negative. This is all likely reflected in his overall +17 +/- rating, a total higher than any Habs player and higher than all their defensemen combined.
All in all these statistics and analysis do not guarantee that Yemelin will be a fan favorite, let alone a Jacques Martin favorite if he makes the big club. They may however alleviate some concern that the Habs are about to inherit another player with the physicality of Tom Pyatt coupled with the heart of Benoit Pouliot.