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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 43 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
After years of waiting, Montreal fans were finally able to see the club’s 2004 third round draft choice in action last year. He didn’t catch fire right out of the gate but as a 25 year-old NHL rookie, a learning curve was expected after playing his entire professional career on an international ice surface. Once he adapted to the North American game, he became somewhat of a smashing success.
Emelin was expected to challenge for a top six spot on the backend coming out of camp but was ultimately outshined by a guy in a similar spot as him, but with much lower expectations. Raphael Diaz took the lead out of the gate in preseason for a regular lineup spot but it didn’t take long for Emelin to catch up. He became a solid regular on the back line and a punishing presence on the ice. His 236 hits were 14th in the league and he played fewer games than anyone ahead of him on that list, aside from Martin Hanzal who had three more hits in three less games. He was a regular presence on the penalty kill and displayed the ability to make that first big pass. The best way to describe his first NHL campaign was that he progressed, not regressed as the season went on.
Season Stats: 67 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 PTS, -18 rating, 30 PIMS, 0 PPG, 1 SHG, 1 GWG, 59 Shots, 17:17 ATOI
5-Year KHL AveragesGP: 50
As this was Emelin's first year in North America, these are his averages from the Russian league for comparison.
Emelin should pick up where he left off last season. A punishing, physical defenseman is what we all expect to see minding the blueline with the ability to play in special team situations, albeit most of those situations will be on the penalty kill and not the powerplay. He has shown he has the capacity and intelligence to complete smart hockey plays and is a strong enough skater to keep most players at bay. He has a solid first pass and should trim down the turnovers now that he has roughly a full NHL season under his belt. Opposing players will hate him and Canadiens fans will love him.
Stats are a little tricky when it comes it comes to Emelin. He never played in a North American league and aside from his 2010-2011 campaign with AK Bars Kazan, where he showed some offensive flair, there is little to suggest he will be putting up 40+ points. That’s not to say he won’t have value in fantasy hockey, it’s just that his talents may not translate well into traditional formats. I think he will put up regular numbers but they will come in bunches so the key would be to pick him up when it looks like he’s heating up. If hits are a part of your fantasy league, he will give you a boost in that department as a late round pick. He’s also shown he a knack for being dangerous on the penalty kill, scoring two points shorthanded last year along with some shorthanded chances he couldn’t bury. A downside of his was his plus/minus rating. An improvement is expected but -18 from a single player will hurt you in any league.
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