Artemi Panarin is 61 games into his massive seven year deal signed with the New York Rangers this offseason, and he has already set a career high in goals (32) and is closing in on career highs in assists and points. Barring injury, Panarin will set career highs in all three categories before the season is over. He has been worth every penny the Rangers have spent, yet his season is barely spoken about outside of New York.
Sure, his line of 32-53-85 is still 14 points behind Leon Draisaitl (all assists), but since when is the Hart Trophy automatically awarded to the highest scorer in the league? Sure it’s common, but the Hart Trophy is awarded to the player deemed most valuable to his team. And to this I ask: Where would the Rangers be without Panarin?
Before even getting into stats, let’s just look at Panarin’s linemates. Panarin has played almost the entire season with Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast on his line. Draisaitl? Mostly with Conor McDavid. David Pastrnak? He’s got Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. No slight to Strome and Fast, but McDavid and Marchand they are not. Panarin drives that entire line almost single handedly.
Panarin’s 32 goals are 15% of the Rangers’ 206 goals. Panarin’s 85 points are 15% of the Rangers skater points (556). Those are in all situations, including powerplay.
But it’s at even strength where Panarin really has earned Hart consideration. Panarin has 55 points at even strength (21-34-55) is again 15% of the Blueshirts’ 364 even strength points. When we talk about primary points (goals, first assists), Panarin’s 21-18-39 represents 15% of the even strength goals and 15% of the even strength points. Sensing a theme?
Remember, this is with Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast. Panarin rarely plays with Mika Zibanejad, only on the powerplay.
Panarin had been overlooked for some time because the Rangers were a bottom feeder team for the first 2-3 months of the season. Now they are just four points out of the final playoff spot with three games in hand on the Blue Jackets. They are also two points back of Carolina, although they have no games in hand.
So again the question is – where would the Rangers be without 15% of their offense?
Not in this position, that’s for sure.
Panarin deserves Hart consideration. Even if this run doesn’t end with a surprise playoff berth.