He’s not here for the Blackhawks convention. Not many on this side of the pond have seen him, unless they’ve watched his game highlights on YouTube.
Nevertheless, he’s been a big topic of discussion – and anticipation – this weekend.
Artemi Panarin hasn’t suited up for the Blackhawks in any fashion yet and won’t until they convene for training camp in September. But many are already talking about the Russian forward and the impact he could make with the Blackhawks.
“All the Blackhawks fans are going to absolutely love him, just love watching him,” said Viktor Tikhonov. “He’s always wanted to come over; he just didn’t know if he was ready. And just seeing him and how fast he’s developing, he was one of the best players in the KHL this year. It was the right move for him to make the jump.”
Tikhonov would know, as he and Panarin played together with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League. Last season Panarin recorded 26 goals and 36 assists for St.Petersburg, which won the Gagarin Cup. The 23-year-old signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks in April.
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Panarin has plenty of potential. And with that come expectations. What could he do with the Blackhawks? And will that expected great play come right away? The same questions came with Teuvo Teravainen when he arrived on the scene two seasons ago. And just like with Teravainen, general manager Stan Bowman said everyone has to give Panarin time.
“We’re trying to be patient with the expectations because he’s coming to a new country, learning the language. Everything is new to him,” Bowman said during a convention session on Saturday. “I always try to tell people, imagine you go to Russia and you’re expected to just jump in to a new culture and be a superstar right away. There will be a little adjustment there but he has special ability. It’s fun to think of the possibilities there.”
The Blackhawks found out with Teravainen that, once you’re comfortable in your new country and with your new surroundings, be it on and off the ice, great things can happen. It should also help Panarin that the Blackhawks have several Russians on the team this season, including Tikhonov and Artem Anisimov.
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Panarin’s acclimation to the Blackhawks begins this fall. He’ll have a lot to take in, from what he learns on the ice to life off it. It’ll take time. Everyone will have to tap the brakes. But the possibilities nevertheless have the Blackhawks talking.
“I think one of the things about that kid is he put up the same numbers as [Ilya] Kovalchuk in the KHL, and we know how Kovalchuk was over here. It’s pretty scary what could happen if he pans out the way everyone expects him to,” Patrick Kane said. “I haven’t seen him play; I’ve just seen a couple of highlights. I’m definitely looking forward to watching him in training camp.”