Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Nashville Predators

Emelin Not Just Physical Presence for Preds

Russian Blueliner Makes Impact with Big Hits, Sound Defensive Game

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Things were relatively quiet from a physicality standpoint midway through the third period of a game between Nashville and Florida on Tuesday afternoon.

And then Alexei Emelin saw his chance.

What happened next was an impeccably timed, thunderous body check, drawing a rise from the home crowd and a retaliatory penalty in favor of the Predators.

It was the perfect example of what Nashville's offseason acquisition on the blue line can add to the game at any given moment, giving his team a lift in more ways than one.

As Emelin sat at his locker after the eighth day of Predators training camp, which continues with a preseason outing on Friday at Tampa Bay, the Russian defenseman was asked of his physical play.

"It's just the beginning," Emelin said with a grin. "I love [hitting]. It's the best feeling."

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Emelin, who was acquired on July 1 from Vegas after the Golden Knights had selected him from Montreal in the Expansion Draft, has made a name for himself during his six seasons in the NHL by forcing opponents to keep their heads up when he's on the ice.

Predators defenseman P.K. Subban knows that just about as well as anyone - not because he's been on the receiving end, thankfully for him - but courtesy of the time he and Emelin spent together as members of the Canadiens defense corps for five seasons. The two even saw time as a pairing on a number of occasions in Montreal, something that could play out once more in Nashville.

Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette has put Subban and Emelin together in multiple training camp sessions, and paired them during Tuesday's preseason game, a move the bench boss said was no accident.

"We knew he was capable of hits like that," Laviolette said of Emelin. "I remember talking to [Subban] about him this summer and [Subban] thought [Emelin] was one of the hardest hitters in the League. We picked up a really physical presence, and I think we saw the first taste of that the other night."

"He doesn't have to prove [his physicality] to anybody, but I love it when he does," Subban said of Emelin. "When he steps up and initiates contact, he's probably in the top three guys in the League in terms of stepping up and catching guys like that. He's done it his whole career. I've watched him do it for a lot of years, and I can't wait to see him do it in Gold this year."

But it's not just Emelin's physical play that gives him an edge when he's on the ice. For one, the Predators will need a number of defensemen to step up in the opening months of the season due to an injury to Ryan Ellis that will keep him out of the lineup until at least Christmastime.

Predators General Manager David Poile revealed before training camp part of the rationale for acquiring Emelin was knowing they would be without Ellis for a period of time. Now, Emelin will have the opportunity to join Nashville's top four on the backend and throw a few more hits in the process.

"Not only can he skate, but he doesn't get enough credit for how he sees the ice," Subban said. "It's going to take him time to get [comfortable], and once he does, you're going to see the type of player he can be… He's going to be a big part of our team, no question, in terms of what he brings."

Now 31, Emelin knows what to expect at this level and how he needs to play to be successful. He's not necessarily going to be the one to pull off an end-to-end rush with regularity or run the power play, but he doesn't have to with the complement of defensemen around him.

He also knows a team with a chance to do something special when he sees one, and Nashville fills the requirements.

"It's a pretty good team and we have a great chance to get the Cup," Emelin said. "I was happy to be traded and happy to be here."

View More