Blackhawks Panarin in contention for Rookie of the Year

Photo Credit: Bill Smith/ Getty Images

Photo Credit: Bill Smith/ Getty Images

Despite recent struggles from the Chicago Blackhawks, one high-note fans can take from the team’s recent slide is that left wing Artemi Panarin has continued to play at an elite level in his rookie campaign.

Going in to the 2015-16 season, the Blackhawks had no idea what kind of player they were going to get out of Panarin. Was he going to be a role player like an Andrew Shaw or Bryan Bickell? Or was he going to be another scorer like a Brandon Sadd?

Based on his stats this season, Panarin is another version of Brandon Sadd, arguably even better than Sadd.

At the beginning of the season, coach Joel Quenneville set his four-lines having Hossa-Toews-Shaw on the first-line and Panarin-Anisimov-Kane on the second-line, and pairing Panarin with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane was the perfect scenario for Panarin because these three guys have arguably been the best trio in the National Hockey League.

Panarin, 24, has been lights out this season and one of the reasons why is because of the line he is on, playing with Kane and Anisimov.

Everyone knows that Kane is the clear frontrunner for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player, and as of now he deserves to be MVP because of the numbers he is putting up – 39 goals, 53 assists and 92 total points, according to NHL.com.

A lot of Kane’s assists have been on Panarin’s goals, and Panarin’s assists have been on a lot of Kane’s goals. When the two are on the ice together, it looks like they have been playing with each other for years because of the chemistry the two have with one another. They are always looking for each other on the ice and they both execute plays at a high level.

Here is an example of a great pass from Kane to Panarin against the St. Louis Blues.

Receiving help from Patrick Kane, serving as a leader and mentor, Panarin has taken his game to the next level. When Kane was in rookie season, he had the opportunity to learn from one of the best scorers in Patrick Sharp – and now look at Patrick Kane. He seems to be getting better and better each year and a lot has to do with veteran leadership. Now Kane finds himself as the veteran player to lean on and learn from, and has helped develop Panarin into an elite player.

Among rookies, Panarin leads the way in total points, goals, assists and game winning goals. Panarin has 64 total points, 25 goals, 39 assists and six game winning goals, according to NHL.com. The next rookie closest to Panarin in points is Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres, who has 49 points – 15 behind Panarin. Eichel is also second among rookies in goals with 22, three behind Panarin. Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes is second among rookies in assists with 29, trailing Panarin by 10 – and Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings and Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers each have five game winning goals, trailing by one game winning goal behind Panarin.

But Panarin’s numbers do not just stand out among rookies, he is standing out among the best in the NHL.

According to NHL.com, Panarin has more points than Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I don’t believe anyone knew how good of a player Artemi Panarin was going to be, especially in his rookie year. Everyone at the beginning of the season had their eyes set on the two rookie phenoms, Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, but with the regular season winding down there is a new rookie phenom in the NHL – and his name is Artemi Panarin.

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