In the summer, we were all talking about how Artemi Panarin's disappointing postseason could mean that the breadman is on the decline. Two points in the seven game series against the New Jersey Devils headlined the issues fans had with the underperformance of Panarin during the playoffs, and rightfully so. He was a complete ghost during the toughest part of the season, and a lot of fans were harsh on the Russian winger for his lack of performance when the games were most meaningful.
How has Panarin responded? Well, he's now a candidate for the Hart trophy as leagues most valuable player. He's become one of the most offensively dominant players in the league, and looks liek the Artemi Panarin that pipped Connor McDavid to the Calder Trophy as the leagues best rookie 10 years ago. He's lost the hair, and he's turned the clock back several years on his extremely impressive career.
Through 35 games, Artemi Panarin has 50 points made up of 23 goals and 27 assists. He's only 40 points behind last seasons total, and he's got another 47 games. On pace to crush his career highs in goals and points, Panarin looks like a different player to the one we didn't see last spring. Yes, this is still somewhat early in the season to be judging Panarin for his accomplishments, but he's joint 3rd in point production on the NHL season. He's become the Panarin he ws back in his Chicago days.
Fans wanted this man run out of town. Some were demanding he be traded while his value was high on the back of the 92 point season to try and recoup some value for his large contract. He's since repaid the faith of the management core in his abilities with a season where he will be considered for the Hart Trophy, and will be in the race for multiple trophies. He's fourth in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy too, which is awarded to the leagues top goal scorer.
We all owe the Russian an apology. He's surpassed every expectation we could have placed on the man. Whether you believe your criticism was justified or not, for now he's done almost everything he can. He's leading the Rangers to the Metropolitan Division title right now, and he's doing it while a lot of the lineup is still having problems. Panarin's bailing a lot of the roster out of it's problematic roots, and we all need to be grateful.