Artemi Panarin gets back into groove at world hockey championships
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COLOGNE, Germany — Without a full-time interpreter, Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin isn’t saying much to non-Russian reporters at the world hockey championships.
On the ice, however, Panarin has said plenty with his play for Russia.
After notching only one assist in the Hawks’ first-round playoff loss to the Nashville Predators, Panarin has three goals and 10 assists in five games during the group stage of the tournament.
‘‘He’s played very good,’’ said Russian coach Oleg Znarok, who issued his understatement through the interpretation of Russia’s media-relations director. ‘‘We’ve liked his performance.’’
Panarin leads the tournament in scoring with 13 points, even though he missed a game Saturday with an undisclosed minor injury.
Panarin, who had three assists in a 5-0 victory Monday against Latvia, has looked a lot more like himself at the worlds than he did against the Predators. That’s good news for the Hawks, who will have another salary-cap crunch to negotiate, thanks in part to Panarin’s new contract.
Panarin’s salary-cap hit will jump from $812,500 to $6 million next season, and that’s not counting the $2.575 million in performance bonuses that will count against the cap figure, too.
In other words, the Hawks need the ‘‘Bread Man’’ to keep earning his dough — something Panarin apparently takes to heart.
‘‘He has pretty high standards,’’ said Hawks general manager Stan Bowman, who’s in Cologne in his advisory role with USA Hockey. ‘‘He wasn’t even pleased with his season this year.’’
Panarin had nearly identical numbers this season to his rookie season in 2015-16. He finished the regular season with 31 goals (one more than in his rookie season) and 43 assists (four fewer). He also finished in the top 10 among NHL forwards in scoring, which triggered his largest performance bonus.
But his season had a bitter ending after he was among the Hawks who were stifled by the Predators.
‘‘When I met with him at the end, he thought he’d just had an OK year,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘It was a tough ending to the year, but I think overall he had a pretty good season. But not by his own standards. He’s his own toughest critic, and that’s a good sign because you know he’s going to be motivated to keep getting better.’’
If his performance for Russia is any indication, Panarin is back on track. He’s thriving on the bigger ice surface, has his patented one-timer from the left circle working and started group-stage play by beating Sweden with a great move in a shootout.
Panarin’s play with Russia won’t erase the disappointment of a second consecutive first-round playoff loss with the Hawks, but it is a reminder of how good he can be.
‘‘He’s such a dynamic player,’’ said former Hawks forward Peter Regin, who’s playing for Denmark. ‘‘He’s a little bit like [Patrick Kane] in many ways, and he’s fun to watch. I’ve watched a lot of the Blackhawks’ games, and he’s such a good player. That whole line is pretty special.’’
Follow me on Twitter @Brian Hedger.