So, who is the MVP?
My choice is Artemi Panarin, a choice that will understandably have its share of dissenters. Here’s why.
- Panarin is having a fantastic season on his own, the best season for a Ranger in two decades. He is a constant threat to score and his presence on the ice changes the dynamic of a game.
- Panarin elevates the players around him. Ryan Strome has become almost a point a game player because of Panarin. Since being moved to Panarin’s line, Jesper Fast is scoring at the best rate of his career. If anything, Panarin is too unselfish, not shooting when he should and preferring to dish passes to his teammates.
- Panarin carried the team for the first three months of the season, especially the stretch when Zibanejad was injured. In fact, the Rangers went 8-4-1 in the 13 games Zibanejad missed.
- Panarin was an addition to this team and by his addition, the team has become a playoff contender. There’s no denying that impact.
- Panarin is a team leader. While Zibanejad is the spokesman and mostly likely the next team captain, it’s clear that Panarin has the respect and admiration of his teammates. His work ethic is legendary and while he may not be a vocal leader, he leads by example.
- Finally, perhaps the biggest reason that Panarin deserves the MVP designation is that he has made Zibanejad better. By acquiring Panarin, and separating their two best players, the team has two top lines, something opposing teams just cannot handle. By focusing on Panarin, ZIbanejad has had more freedom offensively. There is something we should call the PPF or the “Panarin Panic Factor.” It was fully on display in the overtime goal scored by Mika Zibanejad against the Islanders. When Panarin broke out of the Rangers’ zone, all three Islanders converged on him and he was able to make the pass to Zibanejad for the winning goal.
That’s Panarin’s season in a nutshell. His intelligence, brilliant passing and ability to draw the attention of the opposition has made the Rangers a better team and all of his teammates better players. He is truly the New York Rangers’ most valuable player.
Agree or disagree? Feel free to weigh in below.