When the Leaf claimed Richard Panik off waivers earlier in the season, I had no idea who he was. He seemed perfect for lame pun-related headlines, but beyond that, I didn’t know anything about him. Then, for his first few games in Toronto, I didn’t learn anything about him because he hardly played. Lately, he’s come on strong, scoring several nice goals and even getting in a fight.
So who is this guy?
Panick, 23, is 6’1″ and 210lbs. He is a left shooting winger who is apparently more comfortable on his off-wing. Multiple scouting reports all say basically the same thing: he has a high level of talent and a high ceiling but a tendency to disappear and he doesn’t always display his physical gifts. I think it’s fair to say that in his time on the Leafs so far, we’ve seen exactly that. During some games he shows flashes of brilliance, and in others, you forget he’s even playing. (However, it should be noted in the interest of fairness that this happens all the time with fourth line players and may be a function of the role and not necessarily the player’s fault.)
I think this goal shows a good example of his strength and skill and why he may be a player to watch.
Time On Leafs
So far, since his arrival on the Leafs, Panik has six goals and one assist in 27 games. While these numbers are not flashy and do not stand out, consider that he is getting under nine minutes per game, and no power-play time and it is actually pretty decent. His advanced stats are hard to parse meaning out of because of his limited role, but he does have a Corsi-For % of 47% which puts him sixth on the team among players who have played 20 games or more. (Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com)
What all of this suggests is that the Leafs may have found a diamond in the rough on the waiver wire. A talented forward with size and offensive talent? You simply cannot have enough of these in your team’s system. He has shown the grit necessary of a fourth liner, but with some added talent not usually seen that deep in the lineup, especially when you consider that he now has more goals (6) than the entire fourth line of McLaren, Orr, McClement scored all of last year.
Going forward, it is obvious that having players on the fourth line who can move up the line-up is important for a hockey team to have any success, since injuries happen and depth is a must, and it’s becoming clear that Panik provides this for the Leafs. What’s even more intriguing is that his level of play in limited minutes has almost assuredly earned him a chance to move up as soon as a position is available.
Like, for example, the Leafs could put Panik in the lineup in place of Clarkson, not even miss a beat and save $5 million on the cap (assuming someone would take him, which I doubt).
Let’s see David Clarkson do this:
Thanks for reading.
Covering the Leafs for the Hockey Writers.