He can’t talk directly to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and following a game in which he scored his first career goal on Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers netminder admitted post-game that he didn’t even know to pronounce the name of “that young guy.” But after one game, Artemi Panarin is showing why he was one of the most intriguing free agents to come out of the KHL.
In his 2014-15 campaign, the 23-year-old played alongside some outstanding KHL talent, including former NHLers such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Thoresen and Dmitri Kalinen, but it was Panarin, not the veterans around him, who led SKA St. Petersburg in scoring with 26 goals and 62 points. There was good reason for him to be a hot commodity in the international free agent market, with reportedly six teams showing serious interest in the young winger.
When the Blackhawks inked him to a two-year, entry-level contract that will pay him $812,500 over the next two seasons, it included an out-clause: were Panarin to be sent to the AHL out of training camp, he would be able to return to Russia. But for reasons that were obvious to almost everyone with eyes on the Blackhawks’ No. 72 on opening night in Chicago, that clause didn’t get put to use. Read more