Artemi Panarin is number 1 on our Top 25 Under 25 rankings. This should be positively surprising to anyone except the few people who probably did not realize he was eligible for these classifications. The side will not turn 25 years until a few weeks after the start of the 2016-17 season, so here it is. And man, I hope not going anywhere. Panarin Jersey is my favorite player in hockey at this time. A star from Day 1, his future in Chicago is very bright.
Where do you even start with Panarin? The end of Russia came to trumpeted the KHL last summer, but there was an air of uncertainty around him. What score in the No. 3 spot behind Teuvo Teräväinen and Marko Dano on the list last year because we had not seen much of him and were not sure how that would translate to success KHL moving to North America.
And then I went to a preseason Hawks-Stars with my father in early October, and Panarin did this:
Un-fucking-believable. But hey, preseason, right? Nobody gets excited about the preseason. Then came Panarin NHL debut against the Rangers. He scored a goal:
That was just the beginning of a season Panarin scored 77 points, won the Calder Trophy and firmly entrenched among the top scorers in the league. You may hear some knucklehead do if he is just a fluke with Patrick Kane, but can happily reply that you should just go see Panarin. The eye exam is passed with great success.
And it has something of his game, too. Despite being a bit undersized, Panarin is rarely seen thrown from the tablet. It is something like Kane Jersey in his supernatural ability to contort his body and shake bigger, stronger defenders in the offensive zone with speed and guile.
There is another game that wanted to point out because it shows not only the absurd physical gifts Panarin, but the fascinating way you think about the game, too. In a game against the Blues in the playoffs last year, Panarin was forced into a face to face offensive zone against Paul Stastny, who is regularly one of the best in the league in point.
Recognizing that he was trapped in a mismatch, Panarin intentionally lost face to face, he beats Stastny to the corner, won the disc battle and delivered a perfect pass into the crease, where Artem Anisimov was waiting to finish the game. It happened so fast I needed to see a replay. Wait, did Panarin just … Holy shit, did.
I am totally sold on Panarin. It is an offensive dynamo first order, and a yin yang perfect Kane on the ice. Even if he separated from that line, I have no doubt that he would be able to prosper with other players. The fact that so quickly Joel Quenneville respect earned is saying not only his amazing ability, but the fact that he works hard and plays an almost complete game.
There are better both ways forward, but it is a short list of players who can put the numbers like Panarin.
What’s next for 2016-17
A year full of delicious dekes, snaps and types of scrambling on the ice trying to get backup after Panarin put at their ends. I do not know if it will reach 77 points again considering that shot 16 percent last season, but is expected to Panarin be chasing those big bonuses in Table B. No one should be surprised if he gets another top 10 forwards in scoring and nabs that extra $ 1.75 million.
And that’s tied directly to the Panarin contract negotiations, which have been ongoing, but no signs of reaching a solution soon. Panarin is a restricted free agent next summer, so it will not reach the open market, but the words “RFA” will not make you feel too Hawks fans much better after Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw left in similar circumstances. It is difficult to see the Hawks letting it happen with Panarin, a reliable cornerstone for this franchise. Still, as long as he is unsigned, it will be a big part of its history this season.
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