Artemi Panarin Hart Trophy

It has been an incredible season for Artemi Panarin and it’s also been an incredible season for the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts have star power up and down the lineup, but none have been on the same level as Panarin. He’s been one of the few constants this year in the best season of his career. Now, think of where this Rangers squad would be if not for Panarin.

Pretty scary isn’t it?

Panarin currently sits at 99 points, which has already surpassed his previous career high of 96 that he set two years ago. Since becoming a Ranger, Panarin has done some pretty spectacular things on Broadway, including surpassing the 90 point mark four times in five seasons as a Ranger.

In fact, that would be five times if not for the Covid shortened 2020-2021 season. Bey0nd that, Panarin has done it all for the Blueshirts on his way to becoming one of the best Rangers to ever put on the uniform. Yet despite Panarin’s season, there’s been little to no recognition from the mainstream NHL media proclaiming at least a Hart Trophy finality nod for Panarin.

Nikita Kucherov, Connor McDavid, and Nathan MacKinnon have all put up more eye popping stats than Panarin. Auston Matthews is on the hunt for 70 goals. They are all leading their respective teams, but the only players who mean more to their respective teams than Panarin are McDavid and probably MacKinnon.

Without Panarin, the Rangers might be eyeing a year without the postseason regardless of how well Peter Laviolette has gotten the team to buy into his system and style of play. Panarin has been the straw that has stirred the drink this year, and one of the impressive aspects of how Laviolette has turned the Rangers around is how he’s gotten through to Panarin.

The buy in from Panarin, specifically in transforming him into a much more efficient two-way player, seems eerily similar to when Barry Trotz took over in Washington and got Alex Ovechkin to buy in and become more defensively responsible. It resulted in a better on ice result for the Capitals. Panarin has bought in and become better on the backcheck. His willingness to fight for loose pucks has improved as well.

Panarin’s improved play without the puck is a key reason why the Rangers are so hard to play against this year. He has been leading by example, carrying his line. Vincent Trocheck has already set a career high in assists and is within striking distance of a new career high in points. Alexis Lafreniere’s line of 20-25-45 are all career highs, and he’s starting to look like the #1 overall pick the Rangers were getting.

If we are to go by the meaning of the award “most valuable player to his team,” then it’s hard to make a case against Panarin being a finalist for the Hart Trophy. Lazy analysis would point to Igor Shesterkin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, and others on the Rangers, but all have had stretches of either rough play or injury.

Through all that adversity, it’s been Artemi Panarin putting the Rangers on his back. It’s because of Panarin that the Rangers are in the running for the President’s Trophy. Panarin might not win the Hart this year, mostly because it seems to be another Art Ross Trophy lately, but he should at the very least be in the conversation and be given a finalist nod. Without him, the Rangers are a borderline playoff team at best.


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