Artemi Panarin proving to be most deserving of Hart trophy

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

Artemi Panarin put the New York Rangers on his back once again, netting a hat trick in a 5-2 win over the League-leading Boston Bruins on Thursday night. In the victory, Panarin earned his career-high 97th point, good for fifth in the NHL, and surpassed 40 goals for the first time.

Panarin should undoubtedly be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, and is more deserving than some of the favorites.

With 41 goals, 56 assists, and still 12 games to play, Panarin is on pace for 113 points. This may not be enough to eclipse the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Nathan Mackinnon or Connor McDavid, but we are not talking about the Art Ross Trophy and the scoring title.

The Hart Trophy is given to the “most valuable player to his team”, as defined by the NHL. There is no one who brings more individual value to his own team this season than Panarin. What separates Panarin from most of the Hart candidates is that he is the only one on the team scoring at this pace.

“You can tell he’s creating every time he’s on the ice,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said following the victory in Boston. “Sometimes the more he plays, the better he gets, and so you just have to try and find him a little bit of ice time. A big game like this, and he really stepped up.”

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What sets Artemi Panarin apart from other Hart Trophy candidates

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Most leading Hart favorites have support elsewhere in the lineup. As mentioned in Rangers Recall, McDavid (112 points) has Leon Draisaitl (90 points) with the Edmonton Oilers. In Toronto, Auston Matthews (57 goals, 89 points) isn’t even the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer thanks to William Nylander’s amazing campaign (91 points). The same is true for MacKinnon (117 points), who has Mikko Rantanen (93 points) and defenseman Cale Makar (75 points) to ease the burden with the Colorado Avalanche.

According to Vegas Insider, Panarin is tied for fifth in betting odds to win the Hart Trophy. Yet, the second-closest player in scoring for the Rangers is Vincent Trocheck, with 66 points. Panarin leads New York in scoring by over 30 points, which, by definition, should make him the most valuable player to his team.

While the “favorites” for the Hart Trophy have all put up great campaigns, so have other players on their respective teams. Some of the secondary scorers, such as Draisaitl, Rantanen, and Makar, are also in the top-15 in betting odds for the Hart. In terms of bringing individual value to the team, Panarin is in a league of his own, along with Kucherov, who’s 44 points clear of Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Brayden Point, but just one goal ahead of him.

It’s a shame that the more mainstream choices will likely earn the votes from members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, who determine the Hart Trophy winner. According to the criteria of the award, Panarin should be the heavy favorite. Of course, it is hard to ignore Matthews’ push for 70 goals as well as the efforts of Kucherov and Mackinnon, each eyeing 140 points. However, as mentioned before, there are trophies handed out for scoring titles.

“The way he’s taken his goal scoring to another level,” Mika Zibanejad explained. “Everyone knows how good of a passer he is. He’ll find guys where you didn’t think it was possible. Now, he’s been shooting way more this season and it’s really paying off. He’s been big for us all year. You can’t say enough good things about him.”

Above all else, the Rangers have found their way into the No. 2 spot in the entire League, and swept their three-game season series against first-overall Bruins. Doing all of this with only one player in the region of 100 points shows how much of a difference-maker Panarin is to this team.

There is a compelling argument that Panarin has the most individual impact on his team in the NHL. Time and time again, he has almost single-handedly earned victories for the Rangers. While it will be no easy task to beat out the favorites to win the Hart Trophy, he still has 12 more games to make his case.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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