Artemi Panarin had an amazing rookie season where he finished top-10 in the NHL in scoring and won the Calder Trophy at the age of 24. He also ranked second on the Blackhawks behind Patrick Kane in stats such as even strength goals, power play goals, and assists. Panarin was tasked with replacing the production of both Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp who were traded away before Panarin’s first game. With plenty of playing time and opportunity, the rookie known as “The Bread Man” thrived. A player that went undrafted in the NHL and also in most fantasy leagues last year will no longer be a sleeper pick. The spotlight will be on Artemi Panarin this upcoming season, so what can we expect?
With Panarin only playing one season in the NHL there isn’t much history to go off of. We know he scored 77 points and was an elite scorer last season, but is it repeatable? One way we can examine his history is by looking at his KHL stats and translating them into their NHL equivalent. The idea is that 1 point in the KHL is only worth 0.8 points in the NHL. Using this conversion factor, we can estimate what his two full seasons in the KHL would have been like in North America. Over an 82-game season, Panarin had NHL equivalent point totals of 51-points in 2013-14 and 75-points in 2014-15. In his two KHL seasons, he finished 12th and 5th in the scoring race. This past season in the NHL he finished 9th in the scoring race. This isn’t a no-name player that caught fire and had a lucky season. Panarin has been an elite scorer over the past three seasons now.
How much is Panarin’s success contributed to being paired on a line with Patrick Kane? That’s a question many have asked. Panarin played around 1000 even strength minutes with Kane and 175 minutes without him this past season. 175 minutes isn’t much to go off of, but the dip in Chicago’s production when Panarin was without the 100-point scorer was noticeable. At even strength, Chicago scored 2.02 goals for every 60 minutes of ice time last season. When Panarin and Kane were together, Chicago scored at a rate of 2.99 goals per 60. However, when Panarin played without Kane, Chicago only scored 1.36 goals per 60. That is a huge drop-off in team production when Coach Quenneville takes Batman away from Robin, or in this case Kane away from Panarin. One can argue that 175 minutes isn’t meaningful enough. That being a rookie with a language barrier, it was tougher for Panarin to bounce around Q’s line generator. However, one can also argue that Panarin doesn’t score 77 points if he was paired with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw last season.
Should one then worry if Panarin and Kane get split up next season? I wouldn’t and the reason is Chicago’s forward depth. The Blackhawks of old were blessed with amazing forward depth. In 2010, Chicago’s third line was Andrew Ladd, Dave Bolland, and Kris Versteeg. In 2013 the bottom-6 included Bolland, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik, and Viktor Stalberg. Even in 2015, they had a third line of Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, and Teuvo Teravainen. Nowadays, the team will have to rely on rookies and many unproven scorers. The team returns only six forwards who scored 10 or more points last season. One of those six forwards is Andrew Desjardins. The point I’m illustrating is that Chicago is going to need Artemi Panarin to score, since they don’t have many other options.
Quenneville can’t afford to put Panarin in a vulnerable position. Like the past season, coach Q will make sure Panarin is in the best situation to score goals by again giving him many offensive zone starts and power play time. His numbers might dip a little next year, but I believe it’s still a safe pick to select Artemi Panarin in your upcoming fantasy draft.
2015-16 Stats: 30 Goals, 47 Assists, 77 Points, 24 Power Play Points, and 187 Shots on Goal.
2016-17 Projections: 29 Goals, 40 Assists, 69 Points, 22 Power Play Points, and 170 Shots on Goal.