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.
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 hockeyanalysis.com. 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.