When the Chicago Blackhawks signed Artemi Panarin out of Russia, most Blackhawks fans probably considered it a nice acquisition, then went back to their daily lives without giving it too much thought. For me, it was when they traded Brandon Saad that I went into full freak-out mode, pleading for Stan Bowman to pump the brakes.
Little did I know Bowman felt comfortable enough with the haul for Saad, knowing the kind of player Panarin was. I recall reading about him on the ice with Ilya Kovalchuk and how he’d dominate the game. I thought, “Awesome, the team’s got a new third-line winger,” mainly because I doubted his game would transition so easily to the NHL.
I can say “oops” now, right?
Panarin is making everyone who shared my thought eat crow with 17 goals, 29 assists with a plus-9. That production makes the Hawks’ second line one of the best, if not the best line in all of professional hockey.
He’s like a right-handed Patrick Kane when he’s got the puck in open ice (okay, maybe he’s not that good, but you get my point). He’s incredibly quick, is a really strong puck handler, and has an instinctive nose for finding the net that can’t taught. Plus he also gets to play on a line with Kane, so I’m sure that has to help a little bit.
What I like most about Panarin is his selflessness on the ice, which he exercises almost to a fault while seemingly making the best decision the majority of the time. That hockey IQ is also something that isn’t easily taught at the NHL level. The Hawks are clearly a well-respected team in the NHL, and it’s awesome to see newcomers join the fray and adapt to what the team preaches.
I don’t know if it’s Jonathan Toews‘ leadership, Joel Quennville‘s tutorage, the three cups, or a combination of everything — but I know it’s working. If Bowman can pull a few more Panarins out of his hat over the next few years, you’ve gotta wonder how many Stanley Cups the Hawks could win in that timeframe.