Heading into Sunday’s action between the Oilers and Blackhawks, Chicago rookie Artemi Panarin was tied for the league lead in rookie scoring. Through 14 games, the 24-year-old had 12 points and sat alongside injured Edmonton pivot Connor McDavid as the highest scoring freshmen.
Panarin separated himself from the pack Sunday, though, with a three-point night that included a tally less than one minute into the contest and a remarkable solo effort that turned a play that looked as if it would be nothing into a beautiful marker.
After collecting a pass from Patrick Kane, Panarin skated down the left wing wall and appeared as if he was closed off by the Oilers defense. It didn’t look like he had many options, but instead of dumping the puck in and hoping for a retrieval, Panarin stepped into the Oilers zone, shifted the puck out of the reach of Edmonton blueliner Mark Fayne, found open ice and ripped home a wrist shot over the glove of Oilers netminder Cam Talbot:
Panarin capped his night with the secondary assist on Kane’s goal in the third period. The three-point night vaulted Panarin into the lead in the scoring race, and now puts him three ahead of the inactive McDavid and four ahead of New York Rangers rookie Oscar Lindberg, who has wowed with seven goals and 11 points through 14 games.
Helping Panarin vault up the rookie scoring race is that no player has gotten as great a chance to contribute offensively as he has. Though McDavid, while healthy, was skating in the Oilers top six, he was averaging 18 minutes per outing. Through 15 games this season, Panarin is averaging 19:04 per game and skated as much as 22:46 in a single game this season.
Signed by Chicago in the off-season as somewhat of an unknown from the KHL, Panarin is making waves for the Blackhawks. He’s in the first year of a two-year, entry-level deal which carries a cap hit of $812,500. He could earn as much as $3.44 million this season, however, once bonuses are factored in.