Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin regaining confidence with Kane, Anisimov


Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin regaining confidence with Kane, Anisimov

Artemi Panarin reveled in the reorganization of the Blackhawks’ second line. The line had so much chemistry from the start and, in Panarin’s words — aka Viktor Tikhonov’s translated words — it was even better the second time around.

So what made it that much better?

“Because I scored two goals,” Tikhonov said for Panarin, who had a sheepish grin on his face.

Panarin had his go-around on the Blackhawks’ top line — at this point, pretty much every left wing and those who have been converted to that position have been on that line. But it’s with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, especially Kane, with whom Panarin has thrived. And he was back with those two on Monday night, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

[MORE: Kane, Panarin power Blackhawks to win over Oilers]

Coming off his two-goal night, the first goals he’s scored in nearly a month, Panarin was feeling better about his game again. Panarin, through Tikhonov, said he was “a little embarrassed” about how he played recently. Coach Joel Quenneville said Panarin was always pretty good, but there’s no doubt the young forward’s game got a boost from the second-line reunion.

“I thought he was much better,” Quenneville said. “I thought he was always fine but I still thought there was more pace to his game, and we saw that pace [Monday night].”

Panarin was put on the top line heading into the Blackhawks’ game against the Los Angeles Kings last Monday. It was done for two reasons: Panarin deserved a chance and Quenneville hoped the move would jolt the first line’s scoring. Entering that first game, Panarin said he’d have to adjust, make small changes, when playing with the captain.

“With Kane,” Tikhonov said for Panarin, “we have a little bit of a different style.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Well, Panarin on the top line didn’t have the desired affect, at least this time around. Panarin and Kane just click. Perhaps it’s because the two have similar games and that creativity.

“He’s a great kid, loves playing hockey and he loves trying to do well,” Kane said. “I know it was nice for him to get on the board again, score a few goals.”

Panarin was looking like a happy and relieved guy on Monday night. He was feeling like a champion after getting the team belt. He’s contributing again, which makes that second-line reunion that much better.

“There was a period when I was really, really trying hard to score. I kind of relaxed, trusted myself and started scoring,” Tikhonov said for Panarin. “It definitely feels good. I was waiting for this moment for a while.”

GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

The 2019 NHL Draft is 48 hours away from now and the Blackhawks are slated to pick third overall for the first time since 2006 when they took Jonathan Toews. Coincidentally, that draft happened to be in Vancouver. 

The Blackhawks are sitting in a unique spot this time around.

The consensus is that Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko will go first and second overall, respectively, which essentially puts the Blackhawks in a position where they have the first overall pick in a different draft. There's a large group of players to choose from and there doesn't appear to be much separation amongst them.

So would the Blackhawks consider trading out of the No. 3 spot if a team wants to make the jump and the Blackhawks feel good about their player being on the board a few picks back?

"That’s a tough question to answer because it's not like we have a magic formula that we’re waiting for some to call and offer us," GM Stan Bowman said on Wednesday during his pre-draft conference call. "If somebody made a really appealing offer then we’d have to consider it, but that hasn’t happened yet. If it does, then as a group we’ll talk about it. That’s one of those things where a team has to want to put together a really appealing package to move up. It’s happened before, pretty rare though. So I wouldn't say it's out of the realm, but it’s unlikely to happen."

All signs point to the Blackhawks keeping their pick at No. 3, as expected. And it sounds like they already know who it's going to be, which isn't surprising considering the Blackhawks have done extensive research on the prospects — both on and off the ice — for months now.

The Blackhawks staff met on Wednesday a group, they'll meet again on Thursday, and then one more time on Friday before the draft to finalize their list. At this point, it's more about ironing out the later rounds.

"It’s more just fine-tuning the list," Bowman said. "We have more than just one pick in the draft. We’re looking at players we think are going to be around in the second round, and then we don’t have a third-round pick right now so there’s a bit of a gap there between our 43rd and then the two picks in the fourth round. So we have to look at that and determine which players we’re going to target for those rounds. I wouldn’t say there’s anything new that's being discovered at this time of year.

"We’re not going to be cramming last minute. I think we’re going to be very comfortable with the guy we pick when we get to Friday night."

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2019 NHL Draft Profile: D Bowen Byram

2019 NHL Draft Profile: D Bowen Byram

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Bowen Byram

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

"He's had an outstanding year. Second half of the year he's really been outstanding. He really kind of drew a lot of attention to himself. Well-deserved. He's a dynamic player and he affects the outcome of a game."

Byram describes his own game:

On Duncan Keith comparisons: "I would say that’s pretty accurate. He’s a really energetic guy, good on both sides of the puck, kills penalties, runs the power play. That’s kind of how I’d describe myself, for sure. That’s definitely a fair comparison."

NHL player comparable: Duncan Keith

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks have used their last three first-round picks on defensemen, but positional needs aren't a priority when you're drafting this high — although, in the grand scheme of things, it's a pressing need despite the overflow of defensemen in the pipeline. TSN's Craig Button has said multiple times on the Hawks Talk Podcast that Byram is a future No. 1 defenseman in the NHL, and he would immediately become the top prospect in the organization.

Byram, known for his swagger and two-way game, has drawn comparisons to Drew Doughty and Keith, both of whom have won a Norris Trophy — Keith has two. More importantly, Doughty and Keith also have their names on the Stanley Cup multiple times and were both driving forces during those title runs. These are the types of defensemen you win championships with.

Byram set records in the Western Hockey League as a 17-year-old, and he could probably step into the pros immediately. But that's asking a lot for a defenseman, so he'd be more likely to become an everyday NHL player starting in 2020-21.

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