Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Chicago Blackhawks winger Aretmi Panarin had powerful eight-point week (3g, 5a) prior to the final week of the season where he basically slammed the door on the rookie scoring title. This past week he added two goals and three assists bringing his regular season total to 77 points on 30 goals and 47 assists. That point total gave him the fifth highest point total since 2005-06.
It was a dominant performance from the 24 yr. old free agent signee, one that helped propel his linemate, Patrick Kane to career highs in goals (46) and assists (60) as Kane became the first American-born player ever to with the Art Ross Trophy as the league's scoring leader.
Well behind Panarin in the points-total was Buffalo's own Jack Eichel with 56 points followed by Arizona's Max Domi (52,) Edmonton's Connor McDavid (48) and Philadelphia defenseman Shane Gostisbehere (46) who had been lurking at or just below the top-five but slid in with two assists in two games.
Two weeks ago about the only category where Pannarin's lead was somewhat tenuous was in goals as he lead Eichel by only two at the time, but Panarin would add six while Eichel only produced two thus clinching that category. Detroit's Dylan Larkin, who started out the season on a tear but leveled off, still finished with 23 goals as did Buffalo's Sam Reinhart, who's scoring prowess was a revelation this season. Rounding out the top five was Domi's Arizona teammate Anthony Duclair who hit the 20-goal mark for the season.
With a player of Kane's caliber on his line, Panarin was also able to rack up the assists to the tune of 47 on the season, 13 ahead of Domi. Eichel and McDavid finished with 32 while Gostisbehere finished with 29.
From the highly touted McDavid and Eichel, to the explosive production of Panarin and the surprise that rookie d-man Gostisbehere gave us this season, this rookie class has some serious skill up-top. Add in Larkin and Reinhart, Domi and Duclair and this is one of the deeper rookie classes we've seen in a while. And that's without mentioning Anaheim's rookie goalie John Gibson and his veteran-like 38 wins, 2.07 goals against average and .920 save percentage.
The Calder Trophy for NHL Rookie of the year is given "to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League (NHL,)" and in saying that, there were more than a few rookies who displayed that deficiency this year.
With that said, no player had a more incredibly productive rookie season that Artemi Panarin.
Sure, we get that he's 24 yrs. old, a veritable grey-beard amongst those in their teens and early 20's and we also get that he played on a line with one of the greatest scorers of his generation in Patrick Kane. But not only was Panarin able to keep up with Kane in this his rookie season, and not only was he able to thrive playing on that line, he was also instrumental in Kane's history making season.
As mentioned, Kane is the first-ever American-born player to lead the NHL in scoring and he was also the first Chicago Blackhawks player to win the Art Ross since Stan Mikita in 1967-68. He also racked up the most points in the NHL since Evgeni Malkin's 109 in 2011-12 and Kane's 106 points placed him tied for the 13th most points in a season since 2005-06.
Panarin himself surpassed Kane's 72 points for a rookie and his total of 77 places him fifth in rookie scoring since 2005-06 trailing Alexander Ovechin (106,) Sidney Crosby (102,) Evgeni Malkin (85) and Paul Stastny (78.)
Philadelphia Flyers fans might be furious with the selection in that Shane Gostisbehere was a driving force in helping an undermanned Flyers club reach the playoffs.
Gostisbehere totaled 46 points in 64 games with a plus-8 rating and 30 points (6+22) coming on the powerplay. Without that production it's doubtful the Flyers make the post season and if he ends up winning the Calder Trophy it will be just as deserved as Panarin as both players were highly proficient in their roles.
But, as much as it might be a travesty in the City of Brotherly Love, Panarin is my pick for the Calder and the first Blackhawks player to do so since Kane in 2008
One final note.
Were it not for an injury that kept him out for 37 games, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers would have surpassed both Panarin and Gostisbehere for Calder Trophy honors.
McDavid's 48 points in 45 games put him on a pace for 87 points on the season, which would have been good for third place in rookie scoring since 2005-06. Those were just the statistical numbers, but for those who've had the opportunity to watch him play, the eye-test is so much more.
His proficiency is on another level and with a full season, or even another 20-25 games would have had him challenging Panarin for the rookie scoring title while his loss sent a franchise on the verge of respectability plummeting to the bottom of the standings without him.
No disrespect to Panarin, and Gostitsbehere, or even Buffalo's Jack Eichel, but McDavid played last season at another level when he was on the ice.