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.

Scoring Outburst

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.


George Prax's picture

I really hope they get Emelin over here. I absolutely can't wait to see this guy. I've heard him compared to Darius Kasparaitis, and IMO that's a good thing and exactly what the Habs need. Plus it gives the Habs three potentially ridiculous defense pairings:

Markov - Emelin
Gill - Gorges
Subban - ??

I put a question mark because they obviously have Weber and Spacek under contract, but if they could manage to keep Hamrlik or Wiz for that pairing it would be insane.

Only thing to worry about is Emelin potentially bailing. Apparently there's a clause in the contract that he would be allowed to go back to Russia instead of Hamilton. They need this guy over here now.

Phil T's picture

It's obvious that if he comes to America, he wants to play in the NHL, not the AHL. That's why the he'd want that clause in. IMO there's very little chance he would settle for the Bulldogs, so if he doesn't crack the lineup in camp he's going back to the KHL.

Great article btw.

George Prax's picture
Phil T wrote:

It's obvious that if he comes to America, he wants to play in the NHL, not the AHL. That's why the he'd want that clause in. IMO there's very little chance he would settle for the Bulldogs, so if he doesn't crack the lineup in camp he's going back to the KHL.

Great article btw.

Yes, I am aware of this. But that creates a problem, if the clause can be interpreted as if he's not satisfied with his role he's allowed to just bail. If he doesn't pan out or needs some work then it could become a nuisance to keep him around simply because they don't want to lose him.

WinterLions's picture

The connections we're hearing and seeing to a potential Markov signing are pretty interesting. Same agent and language/cultural issues all make it an interesting pair to sign together. I think it would mark the end of Roman Hamrlik though unless they uncharacteristically buy out Spacek (something I wouldnt oppose).

Curious which players have come over from KHL and had solid initial seasons in the NHL. Does anyone know of any?

George Prax's picture

Meehan also represents Kostitsyn, so I'd expect to hear the signings for all three next week. I'd imagine Emelin's signing is partly contingent on markov's signing for sure. That would at least help him make the transition. Hamrlik and Wiz are likely gone as I don't see them taking the cap hit for Spacek for two years when they could just bite the bullet and take it for one. Gill will be back unless they're stupid, as well Gorges of course, so that pretty much sets the top 6 in stone as:

Markov - Emelin ($5M - $1M)
Subban - Spacek ($1M - $4M)
Gill - Gorges ($2M - $3M)
Weber ($1M)

Total: $17M

Picard, Tinordi, Nash, Carle among the ranks in Hamilton.

Only way this changes is if they throw Weber back down and sign someone else, if not Hammer or Wiz then a cheaper UFA.

This would put the Canadiens' defense at a price lower than I would have expected, giving them probably $3-4 million extra to pick up a forward.

Like I said the only thing I'm worried about is if he doesn't pan out. He's going to be in the top 4 D, and that's a spot they can't get back if he doesn't produce what's expected of him. But I'm excited about the prospect of him coming over for sure.

Jason Pietroniro's picture

Call me old fashioned but I just want a big bodied D who will smash faces in front of Price. Take the penalties. Our PK is good enough. Let them know you cannot rush our goalie.

Atas2000's picture

You'll get that. The biggest concern about him in the KHL was always PIMs. It will be interesting to see if there is really a difference in officiating and he wouldn't get called as often as in the KHL. The other team's fans hate him. I usually like that about a D-man. Good luck with him in Montreal. The Habs will have some fans in Kazan now.