Artemi Panarin, thanks to his brilliant debut campaign on Broadway, was voted as the best winger in the league by the NHL Network. That nomination continues what was a magical 2019-20 season, which included a Top-3 finish in the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award voting. Now for the fun question, can he do it again?
We all know the superlatives from last season, much of which was highlighted when the finalists for the awards were announced. This is what I wrote in April in my Panarin evaluation: "Go back to last July when some felt that $11.642 mil for the next seven seasons was an overpayment. Ask most if not all now if they have the same view and you should get a different answer. He gives New York a bona fide superstar, a game-breaker, which every elite team or squad that wants to be elite needs.
Panarin is the team's home-run hitter. He slowed slightly in terms of goal-scoring the last month prior to the cessation of the season, scoring just four goals, including none the last eight games before the break. But he already set new career highs in goals (32) and assists (63) through the first 69 games of the 2019-20 campaign. In addition, Panarin already tied his career high in power-play points (24) while working on New York's top unit."
It's one subset from the paragraph above that drove question #15 of my top-25 offseason questions, see list below: "Are you concerned with Artemiy Panarin's small late-season swoon? No goals in the last eight games before the pandemic and just one goal in the three-game sweep?" I do admit, I am mildly concerned, maybe not for reasons that would be apparent.
Last season, Panarin came in with a chip on his shoulder to prove his worth. In addition, he helped carry the team when Mika Zibanejad was sidelined, then with Zib when Kreider was out. This season, we all believe the Rangers have more depth for the top-nine, including first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere. His addition coupled with the hoped for/expected growth from Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil should reduce the burden on Panarin.
His "late-season swoon," which carried into the play-in round versus Carolina was mildly concerning. But those were small sample sizes, so they are not a big driver of my view. The uplift in talent on the roster coupled with just how magical last season are why I think Panarin will still have a very good year, but maybe not at last year's level. This is also why I am unsure he repeats as the "best wing" in the NHL.
Here is the list again of the top-25 off-season questions. Some of have been covered directly, others tangentially in blogs related to the individuals within individual questions. My plan is to complete the remaining questions prior to the start of training camp, whenever that will be. My ask of you is if you want to run blogs daily with the news of the day. For example, yesterday had Alexis Lafreniere with the ping-pong ball, the quick snippet of the reverse retro jersey and the Rangers teasing the longer draft video. Happy to collate and consolidate that info with my take - if one is needed - if there is interest.
16) What is the identity of this Rangers' team? Do we know? Is one needed?
17) Can Brendan Lemiuex repeat how he played in Game 3 against Carolina or was that the aberration and not the norm?
18) What should be done with Lias Andersson? (from Tommy G on 8/7)
19) Who will be Jacob Trouba's partner next season if it's not Smith? (from Tommy G on 8/7)
20) How does the looming Expansion Draft affect the decision made for a particular signing/trade/buyout? (from Hedgedog 8/8)