Frozen Pool Forensics: Artemi Panarin

by Cam Robinson on November 20, 2015

Why Artemi Panarin is a strong contender for the Calder Trophy.

Three Stanley cups in six seasons is not supposed to happen in today’s parody-driven NHL. Salary cap restraints have been the burden of many a team since its inception in 2005, as it was expected to push consistent competitors to the sidelines for rebuilding seasons. Apparently the Chicago Blackhawks did not get the memo. They have re-tooled, re-calibrated, re-organized and re-structured their way to the top of the heap year after year. How do they do it? Well they find a way to bring in inexpensive talent that can produce immediately.

This week, we are looking at a prime example of that: Artemi Panarin. Here is a 24-year-old undrafted free agent who is playing like a star beside Patrick Kane. In fact, he even looks little bit like Kane.

The 5’11 170lbs Russian winger scored 26 goals and 64 points in 56 KHL games last season – his fifth full season in the top Russian league – and was rewarded with a two-year contract from the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. What may be most impressive about his 2014-15 campaign was that he outscored line mate and former NHL superstar, Ilya Kovalchuk, as the two paired up to lead their team to a Gagarin Cup victory.

Despite being an under-the-radar signing last spring, Panarin has done anything but be low-profile this season. Using Dobber’s Frozen Pool Line Combination Tool, we can see that Panarin has fit in flawlessly on the opposite wing of the league’s leading scorer for more than 82% of his even-strength shifts.

Even Strength Line Combinations

Freq       Line Combination

71.7%    ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI

11.9%    GARBUTT,RYAN – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TOEWS,JONATHAN

10.5%    KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TOEWS,JONATHAN

3.7%      ANISIMOV,ARTEM – HOSSA,MARIAN – PANARIN,ARTEMI

2.2%      HOSSA,MARIAN – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TOEWS,JONATHAN

The immediate chemistry is palpable for fans and owners alike, and the stat sheet has backed it up as well. Kane has been on the ice for 18 of Panarin’s 21 total points; 16 of which have come during five-on-five play.

Even Strength Line Production

Pts          %Total  Line Combination

10           71.4%    ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI

1              7.1%      KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI – SHAW,ANDREW

1              7.1%      HOSSA,MARIAN – PANARIN,ARTEMI

1              7.1%      KANE,PATRICK – KERO,TANNER – PANARIN,ARTEMI

1              7.1%      DANO,MARKO – KERO,TANNER – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TERAVAINEN,TEUVO

Such strong even-strength production is a testament to Panarin’s skill set, and also signals that this is a player capable of creating offense off-the-rush and not simply getting touches on the power play when the puck is more easily distributed.

However, not all of Panarin’s early stats scream sustainability. Looking at his Player Profile, we can see that Panarin’s five-on-five shooting percentage is at 11.64% – likely a number that will see some regression – and his personal shooting percentage sits at just under 15%. While top-class shooters can maintain a personal shooting percentage in the mid-teens, it may be too early to tell if Panarin can hang with such a group. Thus far however, he appears to be making a case to be included amongst some of the league’s top snipers, and he can thank his coaching staff for giving him the opportunity to prove it.

Have you ever tried forcing a square block into a round peg? Well, some organizations do it all the time when they try and ‘ease’ young, offensive players into defensive roles to begin their careers in order to prove themselves responsible. The Blackhawks have waived that archaic approach and are putting Panarin in situations that breed success. This is evident by his receiving close to 70% offensive zone starts, lining up on the top power play unit, and getting ample time during three-on-three overtime sessions. Whether this is a product of the turnover that Chicago has witnessed in the last 6 months, or a more progressive outlook towards initiating rookies, it’s working.

Power Play Line Combinations

Freq       Line Combination

52.9%    KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI – SHAW,ANDREW – TOEWS,JONATHAN

20%        HOSSA,MARIAN – KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TOEWS,JONATHAN

14.1%    ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI

7.6%      ANISIMOV,ARTEM – KANE,PATRICK – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TERAVAINEN,TEUVO

5.3%      ANISIMOV,ARTEM – HOSSA,MARIAN – PANARIN,ARTEMI – TERAVAINEN,TEUVO

Panarin is the real deal, folks. He distributes the puck as well as he shoots it, and Joel Quenneville is ensuring that his confidence remains high by keeping him in the offensive zone where his skills will be best utilized. He may not keep up the point-per-game pace all season long, but this refreshing rookie should be able to rattle off 65-70 points by the time the regular season closes in April…and with it will come a finalist appearance for the Calder Trophy.

Knowing Chicago, it’ll likely have a long playoff run waiting as well.

Outlook for the remaining schedule: 0.75 – 0.85 point-per-game pace.