Montreal rookie defensemen Alexei Emelin recorded the second-lowest defensive-zone passing-percentage among Canadiens defensemen. He was successful with 69% of his even-strength d-zone pass-attempts during the 2011-12 season. In total, he attempted 969 passes from the defensive-zone, and completed 667.
There's no questioning Alexei Emelin's physical play. He was the Habs most physical defensemen. The edge he brings is a welcome addition to a d-core lacking physicality. That said, an important aspect of any defenseman's game is his ability to make a successful and efficient first pass out of the defensive-zone. Unfortunately, Emelin's game lacked this aspect most of the season. That said, his passing-percentage did improve as the season progressed.
Through the first half of the season, Emelin did not produce a defensive-zone passing percentage above 80% in any game. In fact, his d-zone passing-percentage actually fell below 60% during 8 games, and was below 40% in 3 others.
The second-half of the season saw him produce defensive-zone passing-percentages above 80% 10 times, including one game where he was successful with 94% of his d-zone passes, and another where he was successful with all 7 of his defensive-zone pass-attempts. Also, his d-zone passing-percentage fell below 60% only 5 times during the second-half.
The return of Andrei Markov also coincided with an improvement in Emelin's passing, as his success-rate in games with Markov was a substantially improved 73%.
Quantifying a first-year player's play over the course of an entire season must include trending. Improvement justifies the struggles, and allows us a more realistic view of a player's future play. Yes, Alexei Emelin's passing was below average during the 2011-12 season. But, tangible evidence of improvement over the second-half bodes well for next season.