Alexei Valerievich Emelin, who turns 28 today, has assumed an important role for the Canadiens since arriving in Montreal three years ago. With the playoffs in full swing, the rugged blueliner is playing the finest hockey of his NHL career.
Alongside Vladimir Malakhov, Igor Ulanov and teammate Andrei Markov, Emelin is one of just four Russian defensemen to suit up for the Canadiens in the team’s history. Drafted 84th overall in 2004 by Montreal, the native of Togliatti, Russia undertook a long apprenticeship in the Russia Superleague (later the KHL) before making the Canadiens out of training camp in 2011.
After returning from a knee injury which wiped out the second half of his 2012-13 campaign, Emelin logged just under 20 minutes of icetime per game in 59 season appearances in 2013-14. The Russian rearguard notched 17 points, a career-high, and led the team in hits with 189.
Emelin’s contributions have emboldened the Habs’ coaching staff to give him an even bigger role in the postseason. In the four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the third-year defender’s workload has jumped to 24:00 per night in all situations. Now his team’s third busiest man, behind only to Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban, the six-foot-two left-hander responded by putting up ten hits and blocking a team-leading 16 shot in his first career playoff series.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.