Artemi Panarin settled the puck down near the red line, winning the keep-away game between he and a few Dallas Stars before passing to line mate Patrick Kane.
It was some nifty stick handling, and it left his Blackhawks teammates impressed.
“I mean, for being his first game, he looked really relaxed on theice. He looked comfortable with the puck,” Marian Hossa said. “You could see the dangle on that shift, go through the three guys and get the puck back. He’s so slick, and we’ll see a lot of this from him.”
It’s moves like that that made the 23-year-old Panarin so sought after last spring, when he eventually signed with the Blackhawks. And while an upper-body injury kept him out of preseason action until the finale on Saturday night, that one showing was a promising one.
Panarin had two assists and had great early chemistry with Kane and Artem Anisimov in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Stars on Saturday night. Panarin’s dress rehearsal gave him some confidence going into the regular season, which begins on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.
“In the beginning it was a little tough. It took a couple of shifts to get into it. He didn’t touch the puck much in the beginning but then it got easier as he went along,” Viktor Tikhonov said for Panarin. “He has a little bit of an understanding. Getting ready for the [preseason] game, he didn’t know what to expect. Now he knows. Everything’s OK.”
Kane said it was a heck of a debut.
“It was obviously a good first step for him,” he said of Panarin. “You can see by some of his moves out there he’s going to be an exciting player to watch. It’s a little tough communicating with him and talking to him – good thing we have Anisimov to translate everything between us. But it was a fun first night and hopefully we keep getting better.”
As coach Joel Quenneville has said, he and the Blackhawks had a pretty good idea what to expect from Panarin. The adjustment to the North American game, however, was still going to be a hurdle. Couple that with Panarin missing so much of training camp with his injury, and he was going to have to catch up fast. The one game is a small sample size, but it was nevertheless encouraging.
“He looks like he’s got some skill, got some ability,” Quenneville said after the game. “He has a terrific shot, real good instincts. I like that line. It could be fun to watch; the kid’s got a real nice gift of finding pucks and getting it off quickly.”
Panarin will probably have his growing pains this season. He’s adjusting a lot, from learning English to adapting to the United States and the North American hockey game to knowing when he’s been honored for Three Stars after a game – Panarin got that honor on Saturday night, and Brent Seabrook helped him on where to go to be recognized. But as starts go, Panarin’s off to a promising one. The Blackhawks like what they see early here from Panarin. Others likely will, too.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Hossa said. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”