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Artemi Panarin: high-kicking his way into the hearts of all Rangers' fans

April 6, 2020, 1:10 PM ET [12 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Larry Brooks is providing player evaluations daily in the NY Post, an exercise that began the past Monday. The order is by last name, and while he is not giving a grade, he is giving a sort of high-level assessment. Since it's my hope that we will have hockey, I thought it might be interesting to take one or a few aspects of his daily column along with his closure  - the latter in italics - and provide my view, then receive yours in the comments. I will try and do this daily, and have covered Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Tony DeAngelo, Jesper Fast, Adam Fox,  Alexandar Georgiev, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko and Chris Kreider, Brendan Lemieux, Ryan Lindgren, Henrik Lundqvist and Greg McKegg. Today, it's Artemi Panarin


 An evaluation of Artemi Panarin’s first season on Broadway becomes a measurement against history. A measure against the greatest players in the 2019-20 NHL. A measure against the best offensive seasons in Rangers history. A measure against the best free-agent signee debuts in New York pro sports history.

Panarin brought game, he brought class, he brought a twinkle in his eyes with him from Columbus (or Moscow) to New York and was simply a delight to behold on the ice and with whom to interact in the room.

There are not many athletes who have come to New York for that kind of cash and have had the ability to laugh off the inherent pressure and life in the spotlight that comes with it the way Panarin did this season. There are not many athletes with the ability to elevate the performances of everyone around him the way the Breadman delivered.

Honestly, though, every time Panarin stepped on the ice, there was the prospect — or maybe even the promise — of magic. Every time No. 10 hopped over the boards, you inched a little closer toward the edge of your seat. There have not been many Rangers over the last quarter century to elicit that response. In fact, there has been one.

And that was Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06, when he established franchise records of 54 goals and 123 points and was the leader of the band that ended the team’s seven-year playoff drought. Prague, USA, was the address of the Rangers’ room, the team revolving around the contingent that featured No. 68 with Martin Straka, Martin Rucinsky, Petr Prucha, Petr Sykora, Michal Rozsival, Marek Malik and Marcel Hossa.

See, everyone knew Panarin’s talent level when he went onto the market last summer. But the irrepressible joy with which he played had to be seen every day to be appreciated and so did his conscientious work on the boards, in the one-on-one’s, and in getting back to take care of his responsibilities without the puck. His body- and stick-positioning were almost always perfect. His vision, remarkable, and his ability to get the puck through, rare. And he can skate.

The Russian Rockette opened on Zibanejad’s left for the first seven games before David Quinn moved him to Ryan Strome’s unit that included Jesper Fast on the other side. Panarin, who recorded a career-high 32 goals, probably earned Strome millions more on his next contract while parceling out the puck.

Panarin was on for 127 of the Rangers’ 233 goals, 54.5 percent. He was on for 88 of the 173 not scored on the power play, or 50.1 percent. In 2005-06, Jagr was on 152 of the Blueshirts’ 257 goals, 59.1 percent, and for 86 of the 163 non-power-play-goals, 52.7 percent. Meanwhile, can I just say this: Gretzky was on for 265 of the 1981-82 Oilers’ 417 goals, 63.5 percent, while going plus-100. 

Look, if you need me to tell you just good Panarin was, you clearly were not paying attention this season and need to find another sport to watch. What surprised all of us was his play in the neutral and defensive zone. Panarin didn't play lip service defense, but he was engaged in all three zones, not just the offensive one.

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. If we get at least 5-7 games when/if play resumes, Panarin should hit the century mark in points.

Locked up for six more seasons, we should expect several more brilliant campaigns at a minimum from the player who selected the Rangers despite more lucrative offers on the table.

Every goal scored this season by Panarin: (h/t to Tonybere for the link)

As a heads up, I will be out of pocket starting on Wednesday night through Saturday night due to the first two days of Passover and the Sabbath. The following week, I am off the grid from Tuesday through Thursday night. I don't expect to miss much given te current situation, but will resume the blog when i return.

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