Artemi Panarin lived up to the hype. And then some.
Panarin came to Chicago billed as “the Russian Patrick Kane,” and teamed with the actual Patrick Kane to form one of the most dynamic lines in hockey this season. The 24-year-old rookie scored 30 goals and handed out 47 assists to post 77 points — 21 more than his nearest rookie competitor, Buffalo’s Jack Eichel. Panarin also played a key role in Kane’s career-best season, in which he became the first American-born player to win the scoring title.
So it was a foregone conclusion that Panarin would be a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. The three finalists were announced on Monday, and Panarin was joined by Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere, who are 19 and 23, respectively.
Panarin played parts of seven seasons in the KHL before coming to the NHL, which could cost him votes even though the league — and the Professional Hockey Writers Association, which votes on the award — considers him a rookie. McDavid, who missed nearly half the season with a broken collarbone, had 16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games, the third-highest points-per-game total in the league behind only Kane and Dallas’ Jamie Benn.
The last Blackhawks player to win the Calder was Kane after the 2007-08 season. Ed Belfour won for the 1990-91 season.
Even Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who lured Panarin to Chicago over several other teams, didn’t see such a season coming.
“I didn’t expect him to be as good as he was,” Bowman said. “These are the great surprises you have when he comes in and does something that’s sort of unheard of for a first-year player.”
Marian Hossa, however, wasn’t surprised.
“Last year, after we beat Minnesota, I had the chance to watch the World Championships and I saw this kid playing Slovakia, and he was just dominating,” Hossa said. “So I watched another game and he was dominating again. One of the players was fun to watch. And when I heard he was coming to Chicago, I was like, ‘Can’t wait for this guy.’ And he didn’t disappoint at all. He just picked up where he left off from what I saw on the TV screen. It was just fun to watch him. And he and Kane were so dynamic and so much fun to watch. What a season they had.”