Artemi Panarin’s magical season no ‘fluke,’ Rangers coach says

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin is playing at a level this season few players in New York Rangers history have ever dreamed of. But Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said Panarin’s Hart Trophy-worthy season isn’t such a big surprise to him, nor should it be to others.

The reason? Panarin’s consistent level of excellence through nine NHL seasons, notably the past five since signing his megadeal as a free agent with the Rangers before the 2019-20 season.

“I know that this is kind of a benchmark year for him, but his statistics the last seven or eight years are incredible,” Laviolette said after Panarin’s latest gem, a four-point outing in a 5-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

“For me, there’s consistency that goes with that. This isn’t just a fluke, it’s just been a really good one (season).”

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Artemi Panarin continues to be ‘elite player’ for Rangers

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at New York Rangers
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Laviolette undersells that one point, just a bit. It hasn’t been a really good season for Panarin, it’s been among the best in Rangers history.

The 32-year-old has an NHL career-high 115 points with four games remaining in the regular season. That is the second-highest total already in Rangers history, eight behind Jaromir Jagr’s franchise record of 123 set in 2005-06. That’s pretty good company to keep.

Panarin is one of only seven players in Rangers history to reach 100 points, joining Jagr, Jean Ratelle (109 in 1971-72), Mark Messier (107; 1991-92), Vic Hadfield (106; 1971-72), Mike Rogers (103; 1981-82) and Brian Leetch (102; 1991-92).

He’s the fourth-leading scorer in the NHL this season, trailing only Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (136 points), Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche (133) and Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid (130). Those three likely will be the finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL most valuable player. But Panarin will get plenty of voting support.

With an emphasis on shooting the puck more often this season, Panarin scored his career-best 46th goal Sunday against the Canadiens. That’s sixth-most in the League. Of course, he remains an elite playmaker with 69 assists, fifth-most in the NHL.

Simply, he’s having a great season.

But to Laviolette’s point, Panarin has been consistently great since winning the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015-16. As a 24-year-old, Panarin scored 30 goals that first season and had 77 points in 80 games. He4’s averaged fewer than one point per game only one time since, and that was his sophomore season with the Blackhawks (74 points in 82 games).

Since 2017-18, Panarin is the fifth-leading scorer in the NHL, and his average of 1.24 point per game is also fifth most among all NHL players. Only McDavid (832 points; 1.61 ppg), Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (709; 1.36), MacKinnon (686; 1.41) and Kucherov (631; 1.45) have been more productive.

In that same span, Panarin is third in assists with 424, behind McDavid (544) and MacKinnon (429).

“He’s been an elite player offensively and this year I think, obviously, has been his best,” Laviolette said. “But it’s not like this huge jump and where did it come from. … He’s done a really good job for a really long time.”

Since signing with the Rangers, Panarin has scored 92 or more points in each of the four full seasons and had 58 points in the 42-game abbreviated season in 2020-21. With two seasons remaining on his seven-year, $81.5 million contract, Panarin is well on his way to being one of the most productive scorers in Rangers history.

So, as Laviolette noted, this incredible 2023-24 season is no fluke for Panarin.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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