Rangers star already one of their all-time greats in this area

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You won’t find Artemi Panarin’s name among the New York Rangers all-time leaders in goals, assists or points. At least not yet. But there is an important statistic that points to Panarin, arguably, being the best forward in franchise history.

Of course, that’s a major leap considering we’re talking about a franchise that’s been in business for nearly 100 years. That’s a lot of great hockey players over the decades, from Original Six heroes to those who were part of great runs in the 1970’s and 2010’s, the 1994 Stanley Cup champions and the current run of three consecutive 100-point seasons.

Those great teams had great players, including many of the best to ever play in the NHL. Wayne Gretzky. Rod Gilbert. Mark Messier. Andy Bathgate. Jaromir Jagr.

Panarin is working his way into the conversation. Since signing his massive seven-year, $81.5 million contract ahead of the 2019-20 season, Panarin has produced equally huge numbers in the regular season. He has 92 points or more in four full NHL seasons on Broadway, and had 58 in 42 games during the abridged 2020-21 campaign.

This season, Panarin has raised his play to Hart Trophy level. Panarin’s 43 goals and 102 points are NHL career highs for him. He’s fourth in League scoring and sixth in goals. He’s got eight points (five goals, three assists) in his past three games, aiming to finish strong and keep it rolling into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Let’s examine where Panarin stands among the greatest forwards in Rangers history.

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Artemi Panarin making case as one of greatest forwards all-time for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
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For this exercise, let’s stick to the forward position. Brian Leetch certainly can stake a claim as the greatest player in Rangers history but the stud defenseman and goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be left out of this debate.

In five seasons with the Rangers, Panarin has 443 points (143 goals, 300 assists) in 340 regular-season games. He will soon crack the Blueshirts top-10 in assists, perhaps even this season, since Vic Hadfield sits in 10th place with 310 helpers. Before his contract is up after the 2025-26 season, Panarin should easily be among New York’s top-10 all-time scorers. Teammate Chris Kreider is 10th now with 542 points and will move up the list the next two seasons. But Panarin should catch and pass Hadfield, who’s currently ninth with 572 points.

In fact, should he remain healthy the rest of this season and next two, Panarin should pass Hadfield, Steve Vickers (586) and defenseman Ron Greschner (610) in the top-10.

The 32-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down. His production is at career-best levels this season, and he’s the first Rangers player since Jagr in 2005-06 (123) to score 100 points in a season. In fact, he’s just the sixth forward and seventh skater (Leetch is the only defenseman on the list) with 100 points in a season for the Rangers.

But what is it that truly elevates Panarin among the all-time great Rangers forwards?

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Artemi Panarin has highest scoring average in Rangers history

NHL: New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
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Panarin is averaging 1.30 points per game with the Rangers. That is far and away the best average in franchise history, which speaks to the amazing consistency The Breadman has shown in New York.

Jagr is next on the list with an average of 1.15 points per game. That’s buoyed by his massive 2005-06 season and lowered by his final of three-plus seasons in New York when he had 71 points in 82 games in 2007-08.

Panarin has never averaged less than a point per game in any of his five seasons with the Rangers. His lowest production was last season, when he averaged 1.12 points per game (92 points in 82 games). He’s averaging a whopping 1.42 this season and was 1.38 in his first season with the Rangers.

Like Jagr, Walt Podubny averaged 1.15 points per game with the Blueshirts. However he only played 152 games over two seasons in New York from 1986-88, when he scored 88 and 87 points. Two terrific seasons, just not the length of consistency Panarin has shown.

An excellent argument can be made that Bathgate or Messier be considered the greatest forward in Rangers history since each was a point-per-game player for a decade-plus in New York. Bathgate had 729 points in 719 games with the Rangers from 1952 to 1964. He’s tied for fifth all-time for the Rangers averaging 1.01 points per game.

In two stints on Broadway, Messier had 691 points in 698 games. His average of 0.99 points per game is tied for seventh on the all-time list. Of course, he also led the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup championship in 83 years to this point. So, there’s that.

If Panarin can break through and help the Blueshirts win the Cup, his overall value and how he’s looked at will change. And quite likely, he could be recognized as the greatest forward, if not simply one of the best, in Rangers history.

New York Rangers Top 10 all-time points-per-game averages

NHL: New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres
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10. Pierre Larouche 0.96 (243 points in 253 games)

9. Mike Rogers 0.97 (308 points in 316 games)

T7. Ulf Nilsson 0.99 (169 points in 170 games)

T7. Mark Messier 0.99 (691 points in 698 games)

T5. Michael Nylander 1.01 (162 points in 160 games)

T5. Andy Bathgate 1.01 (729 points in 719 games)

4. Wayne Gretzky 1.06 (249 points in 234 games)

T2. Walt Podubny 1.15 (175 points in 152 games)

T2. Jaromir Jagr 1.15 (319 points in 277 games)

1. Artemi Panarin 1.30 (443 points in 340 games)

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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