by Ray Kuhn
Entering play on Wednesday the Chicago Blackhawks had seven games left in their regular season. A large reason why they appear ready to continue on into June is a rookie who flew under the radar entering this season, the likely Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin.
Let’s be fair, Panarin did have the good fortune to join a pretty successful team. It makes your job in adjusting to the NHL a little easier when you get to share the ice with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes. However, we should also not discount the job he has done in keeping up with his teammates.
Entering the season, there were no questions about Panarin’s talent coming over from Russia, but his ability to have sustained success was questioned by the Hockey News in their pre-season scouting report (click here to view).
|Assets:||Is a supremely skilled winger who oozes creativity and is equally adept at setting up linemates and finishing off plays himself. Can line up on either side of center. His puck skills are off the charts and his shot is wicked.|
|Flaws:||Doesn’t have ideal size (5-11, 170 pounds) for the National Hockey League game, so he could stand to add bulk, get stronger physically and avoid injuries in order to thrive at the highest level over an extended period of time.|
|Career Potential:||Extremely talented and creative scoring winger.|
Additionally, while he has had to raise his level of play, his teammates have done a very good job of taking the focus off of him. Chicago has been able to put Panarin in situations which he will be able to succeed, as he is averaging 18.27 minutes per game. A lot of that time has also come on the power play, on which he has six of 25 goals (to go along with his 39 assists).
While he is still in line take home the hardware at the end of the season, his performance has taken a dip recently. He has gone nine games without a goal and has just two assists in his last six games. Based on his size and inexperience, the dip should not be taken as a surprise. While he spent six seasons playing in the KHL the most games he ever played in a season was 54, and the level of competition is obviously not NHL caliber.
The fact that Panarin is 24 years old and has the aforementioned KHL experience should not change his eligibility for the Calder Trophy. However, there will be at least five rookies from this season that go on to better careers than Panarin, with Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart the three obvious ones.
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