Is it possible to “bounce back” from a 92-point season? Is Artemi Panarin even considered a candidate for a bounce-back season?
Interesting, but not entirely unfair questions.
Following the 2022-23 campaign that saw Panarin crack the 90-point mark for the third time in four tries for the New York Rangers, a disappointing postseason has put Panarin in a peculiar situation.
Panarin did not find the back of the net in New York’s forgettable first-round, 7-game series with New Jersey last season that saw a premature ending to the club’s campaign.
He had just two assists in the whole series, both coming in Game 1 against the Devils.
The 31-year-old will almost certainly be a man on a mission in 2023-24. He looks to do something no Rangers player has ever done before, recording 90 or more points in four separate campaigns.
Both Jean Ratelle and Mark Messier join him as the only players with three such seasons.
Yet, his regular season prowess did not manifest last postseason. Some might argue it was not apparent in the Rangers trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2022 that saw Panarin record six goals and ten assists in 20 games.
So what can we expect from Panarin in 2023-24, entering his fifth season with the club and his third head coach in that time?
Less power play time
New bench boss Peter Laviolette will likely try a different approach to the clubs’ top players than the way former head coach Gerard Gallant.
Gallant was very much in favor of letting the players dictate themselves. Disagree? Artemi Panarin led the club in power play time on ice (TOI) this past season at 294:07. Adam Fox followed suit (292:46) along with Mika Zibanejad (286:42), Chris Kreider (272:00), and Vincent Trocheck (242:50).
Those five players accounted for power play unit number one. The next player with the most power play time in 2022-23 for the Rangers was Alexis Lafreniere at 111:23 TOI. So yes, Gallant did allow the players the benefit of control. That will likely not be the same under Laviolette. While it is possible (and even probable) that Panarin finishes with the club lead in power play TOI, his chances of reaching the 300-minute threshold are slim.
A shooting mentality
Another likely change to Panarin’s game will be his propensity to shoot the puck.
He has been labeled as a playmaker, and rightfully so, throughout his career. When given the option to pass or shoot, the right winger generally chooses the former. Despite being second amongst the club’s forward group in time on ice per game at 19:36, Panarin finished with 204 shots on goal, fourth on the team.
Relatively speaking, it sounds high. However, when looking league-wide, Panarin finished tied for 82nd in shots on goal. When possessing a shot as lethal as Panarin’s, that is borderline unacceptable. For context, Jack Eichel (another lethal shooter) finished with 223 shots on goal. Eichel played in just 67 games, while Panarin played the full 82-game schedule.
Peter Laviolette will certainly not put up with the cute passing the team attempted far too often, leaving Panarin with less leeway to get fancy. With less freedom to make cross-ice passes and cute plays, expect Panarin to shoot more. With more shot attempts comes more shots on goal.
That influx of shots on goal should (emphasis on the word “should”) lead to more goals, meaning Panarin eclipsing the 30-goal plateau for the second time as a Rangers is almost certain. Perhaps even reaching a career-high in goals scored? His current best was the 32 goals he scored in his first season with the Rangers back in the 2019-20 season.
Thus, expecting Panarin to reach the 35-tally mark is not out of the question. Assist totals may go down, but goal totals will surely increase. The likelihood of seeing a different, more determined version of Artemi Panarin this season is high. With it goes the expectations.