Blackhawks: Why Artemi Panarin is the Calder Trophy favorite


Blackhawks: Why Artemi Panarin is the Calder Trophy favorite

Artemi Panarin wasted no time introducing himself to the NHL with a big night in his Blackhawks debut on Oct. 7 against the New York Rangers.

Since then, Panarin has emerged as one of the league's top rookies and the early frontrunner to win the Calder Memorial Trophy for best rookie at 3-2 odds, according to Bovada. Edmonton's Connor McDavid — the heavy preseason favorite — suffered a broken collarbone on Nov. 3 and won't return for approximately another month (or perhaps longer), which likely eliminates him from the conversation.

Following a three-point night in an overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, Panarin bumped his point total to 26 — tied for seventh-best among all players and is five points more than the second leading rookie scorer, Arizona's Max Domi (21 points) — through the first 26 games of the season, a pace that projects him to finish with a point-per-game average.

[MORE: Pavel Bure: Blackhawks rookie Artemi Panarin 'reminds me of myself']

The last rookie to do that was Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in 2006-07 when he averaged 1.09 points per game with 85 points in 78 games. For comparison's sake, Patrick Kane tallied 0.88 points per game during his 2007-08 rookie season in which he won the Calder Trophy with 72 points in 82 contests.

As the season goes on, Panarin should continue to consistently appear on the scoresheet, even more so if Kane — who's also the early favorite to win the Hart Trophy — continues to play at an MVP level. And that's precisely why it may take some votes away from Panarin, but it shouldn't.

In fact, statistics prove that Kane is actually benefiting from Panarin more than vice versa.

When Kane and Panarin are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.5 percent of shot attempts, according to When they're apart, Panarin is controlling 54.0 percent of even-strength shot attempts while Kane has seen that number drop to 48.4 percent.

For validation, look no further than last year when Kane was in the thick of the Hart Trophy race averaging 1.05 points per game — 64 points in 61 games — before a collarbone injury sidelined the Blackhawks star for the rest of the regular season. Ironically, he had 26 points in the first 26 games last season, identical to Panarin's this year.

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Through 26 games this season, Kane's points per game average is 1.58.

That's more than half a point per game higher than a year ago, a campaign widely considered to be Kane's best to date. That's a significant increase, which has to do with a combination of both Kane elevating his game and Panarin providing a large boost.

So while it's easy to jump to the conclusion that Panarin's numbers are a byproduct of Kane's historic start, the stats confirm Panarin isn't just along for the ride. He's thriving, and his teammates are benefiting greatly because of it.

Most importantly, so are the Blackhawks.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: