Would it surprise you to know that Artemi Panarin was not drafted by any NHL team? Looking at his achievements and incredible skill, it is an easy piece of information to forget. However, each team he has been a part of has had success. Panarin improves everyone around him and is brilliant on the Rangers’ power play.
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Panarin played seven seasons in the KHL before making the leap to the NHL. Since he had not been drafted, he was a free agent and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. They put him on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, and he became the Calder Trophy winner, given to the League’s top rookie. It is a little ironic now that his first goal and first hat trick in the NHL were in games against the New York Rangers.
In 2017, Chicago traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he instantly made an impact there as well. He had back-to-back seasons of making it to the playoffs with Columbus. Panarin signed with the Rangers in 2019 during free agency, and if you were thinking he made an immediate impact, you would be correct. Panarin signed a seven-year, $81.5 million contract, and while it may be a lot of money, it is worth it. The Rangers are benefiting from the leadership and skill he brings to the team.
Panarin played 72 games this past season, ending the regular season with 22 goals and 74 assists. Thirty-two of those assists came on the power play. He averaged 19:13 minutes on the ice and had 56 takeaways and 71 giveaways. Panarin played 20 games in the playoffs, scoring six goals, and getting ten assists. We will never know if his not-so-great playoff performance was all on him or based on issues out of his control, such as Ryan Strome playing hurt. Also, don’t forget about the opposing teams looking to shut him down. Panarin struggled, appearing unable to adjust to what the other teams were doing. However, there are always lessons to be learned, and now he knows what to work on for the next cup run.
Once you discount the trade rumors, since Panarin has a no movement clause in his contract, the future looks bright for Panarin and the Rangers. He needs linemates who will allow him to be the player he is; if the career-high 96 points from this past season cannot convince you, think of what he might be able to accomplish with a solid wingman and someone to center them both. If the Rangers want to go further in the playoffs, they have to be able to adjust on the fly. Which they appeared unable to do, especially against the Tamp Bay Lightning.
The Breadman has endeared himself to the hearts of Rangers fans everywhere. Hopefully, he has fun at karaoke in the offseason and comes back ready to be one of the leaders to show them the way back to the playoffs.
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