Just watched Russia beat Sweden 4-3 on penalty shots
In an uninspired game marred by penalties, 15 on each team I got to watch Alexei Emelin up close for the first time.
He hardly, if at all played on even strength or on the power play, but was the first russian d out there on the penalty kill, even on 5 on 3 and including killing off the last two minutes of overtime shorthanded.
Emelin played the right side and was easily the most inspired and physical of all the russian players. His positioning was very good and and he cleared the net very well, won most of his battles along the board and even drew two penalties with courageous plays.
I was impressed by how strong he was on his skates, and how big and strong he looked knocking several Swedes to the ice.
As he only played while shorthanded i did not get a feel for his offensive game at all.
He was on ice for one goal by the Swedes, a wrister from Kenny Jonnson while 5 on 3, but that was after Emelin had first out battled two swedes for the puck and cleared it in impressive fashion drawing praise from the swedish commentators who usually reserve the positive comments for their own players.
All in all I was very impressed by Emelins play and from what i saw today his game will be well suited to the NHL and the smaller surface,although I would have loved to see what he can do with the puck as well.
Being on the ice in all those key defensive situations it is clear that the russian staff has a lot of confidence in their youngest defenseman.
It will be very interesting to follow his progress throughout the year, if he can continue to get lots of icetime and play on the national team, and maybe even play in the world championships I think that he made the right decision to stay in Russia for one more year, but i have no doubt that he will come to NA in the future as his game seems to be much more suited for the NHL than the RSL
I think that he eventually will. It helps to have a bunch of russians/belrussians etc.. in the lineup and in the pipeline.
When players get to the calibur of emelin, they dont get there without some pride, passion, and dedication to bring the best out of themselves. He will never really test himself unless he comes to the NHL.
Edit: No offense to the RSL. I know its a high calibur league too