After a long offseason and an even longer preseason, the New York Rangers 2019-20 season is here. With a record of 2-1-0, it seems like all of the moves made during the offseason were worth it. One of those moves involved the signing of the NHL’s top free agent, Artemi Panarin.
Panarin, who spent time with both the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets, came to Rangers after signing aseven-year, $81.5 million contract. Through the first three contests of the season, he is worth every penny of it.
Let’s talk about it.
First Line Dominance
Alongside Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, Panarin has been stellar in his first three games with the Rangers. It’s amazing how well they have played despite only having a handful of practices and games together.
They have set the tone for the forward lines, and have generated a good chunk of the scoring. The future of this franchise in Zibanejad, leads all of the Rangers skaters with eight points, followed by a tie between Panarin and Jacob Trouba with four points apiece.
With two goals and two assists through the first three games, he is already sticking to his career average of having a point-per-game. Having Zibanejad as his center will certainly help with that. The two have linked up on three occasions, which included both goals that Panarin has scored and one of the four goals Zibanejad has scored this season.
As the season rolls along, Panarin and this first line will have to continue playing as well as it has. The bottom three lines have yet to awaken their true potential but are closer with each passing game. The second line especially needs to pick up the pace. With Kappo Kakko, who just broke the seal with his first NHL goal, Chris Kreider, who has been the best player for the Rangers without a goal, and now Brett Howden following the demotion of Ryan Strome to 3C, there needs to be more production.
Best Power Play in Years
Panarin is a huge part of one of the best power-play units the Rangers have seen in years. Alongside his first line teammates of Zibanejad and Buchnevich, he is joined by Kreider and Trouba. Setting himself up in a prime one-timer position at the left circle, the Russian-native has been able to get some really good scoring chances on each of the team’s nine power play opportunities.
What he also brings to the table is a bit more than just a lethal shot, is his offensive awareness. While the puck is in the offensive zone, with the man advantage, Panarin has been able to make sure that the puck isn’t being given away for free. There hasn’t been a bad pass from him all season thus far, and he made some passes that were extremely difficult, look easy.
Having a dual-threat on the power play, with the curve of his stick forcing him to have his body facing the ice instead of the boards, is an advantage the Rangers needed. Each time a puck comes over to the left circle, he has an opportunity to either find the twine with an accurate shot or use his awareness to get it to an open teammate.
Panarin has been able to score both of his goals on the season on the power play, and you can expect a whole lot more of that throughout the season. His impact with the man advantage is no secret to opposing teams and he still finds a way to be successful.
More Than Just Scoring
The Rangers knew they were getting an elite forward with unrivaled scoring ability, but they didn’t know that they would also be getting a complete player. On a number of occasions, Panarin has played as strong of a defensive game, as he did offensively.
For example, against the Edmonton Oilers, there was an instance where Panarin was able to chase down a developing two-on-none situation and stop the play. That is just one play in a bundle of defensive situations that he has helped diffuse with an active stick.
This makes Panarin worth every single penny. He brings a completely different dynamic to the game and the Rangers are utilizing it. There are a lot of younger players on this roster, and they all carry a boom-or-bust potential with them. Having a for-sure option makes the weight on all of the younger players’ shoulders, a little lighter.
I cover the New York Rangers. I graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism.