It has been reported that Artemi Panarin has his sights set on the NHL next season. If his overtime goal in the first game of SKA St. Petersburg's second round series against Dynamo Moscow is any indication of his talent level, don't be surprised when teams fight for his services.
Less than a minute into overtime, St. Petersburg's Panarin got the puck deep in the left wing corner. After spinning on his backhand towards the boards, he deftly slipped the puck under the stick of the Moscow defenseman Mat Robinson, turning him inside out. As Robinson gave chase, Panarin moved right into the slot and, with four defenders in the vicinity, fired a wristshot past Dynamo goaltender Alexander Lazushin:
The goal, Panarin's first of the playoffs, is just a glimpse of the raw ability he possesses. Panarin finished fifth in regular season scoring with 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games for SKA. Of the four players ahead of him, however, Panarin averaged the least ice time by more than 30 seconds. Not bad for a 23-year-old playing on the big ice.
You may recognize Panarin's name from the 2011 World Junior Championship, where he scored the game-winning goal with four and a half minutes remaining. Russia defeated Canada on the strength of five unanswered goals.
As THN's Matt Larkin pointed out, there have been as many as 10 teams that reportedly have interest in Panarin for next season if he chooses to come to the NHL. As he has never been drafted, all 30 teams are eligible to chase after him.
With the win, St. Petersburg takes a 1-0 series lead on Moscow. The second game of the series is slated for Friday evening in Moscow.