Artemi Panarin
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Rangers’ winger Artemi Panarin was the No. 1 one free agent on the market this summer. Now, we fully understand why. 

Dom Renna

The New York Rangers have not dressed a player with the skill of Artemi Panarin’s for a decade.

It’s a simple statement, one that does not fall under the “hot take” umbrella considering how the two closest players who would fall under Panarin’s category would be Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and maybe Martin St. Louis.

Panarin’s always had the reputation of putting up points dating all the way back to his rookie year with Chicago on to Columbus, but now he’s doing it on the world’s biggest stage, and probably isn’t getting as much recognition as we would any other year.

Let’s face it, the story around the Rangers thus far has been the play of Mika Zibanejad, how Kaapo Kakko’s looked through two games, and whether or not the blue line needs to be readjusted. Panarin and Jacob Trouba’s play seems to just be cheery on top of what’s been an amazing ice cream sundae in 2019-20.

It doesn’t really just start with how he’s played in the regular season, though. At training camp, all of the talk around the Blueshirts surrounded Kakko, kind of letting Panarin’s transition to the bright lights of New York go under the radar. His impact though cannot go unignored, even though it’s been a small sample size.

In that sample size, the line of Panarin, Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich have already combined for 14 points (six goals and eight assists) in just two games. Over two games, Panarin’s tallied two points in each contest, bringing a different element the Rangers have not seen in a while.

One thing to like about Panarin’s game so far is how he does not hesitate to shoot the puck. Even though he has just two goals on three shots, all of his shot attempts seem to be well planned out which allows for such a high conversion rate. Too many times over the last 10 years, New York became a pass-first team, failing to generate shots when it might be the best option in front of them.

Looking for an example? Look no further to this Zibanejad goal from Saturday’s tilt vs. Ottawa.

Buchnevich’s first instinct on the play was to pass it back to Zibanejad for sexy play instead of converting the sure goal originally. Now, watch Panarin and how quickly he decides to shoot.

Instead of re-setting things on the powerplay like we would have seen years ago, Panarin just rips one past the screened goaltender no hesitation and finds the back of the net for his first of the year.

Even with him scoring his first as a Ranger, he somehow manages to become just a bookmark in the opening win with Jacob Trouba stealing the show on a play Panarin kept things alive, using his skill to his advantage with the extra skater.

Yes, what the Rangers have done so far has been impressive, especially the play of Zibanejad. But for a guy who signs a mega-deal in the offseason to barely get talked about is mind-blowing, especially in this kind of market, yet here we are.

Look at how every other super-star performs right away after a big trade or signing is made in New York with tons of headlines. There’s pressure to perform and sometimes it affects their game for the worse. That simply has not been the case with Panarin in his move to the Big Apple, practically being a nonstory the first month. Instead, all he’s done is play his game and is playing it well making a great first impression.

Maybe it’s a good thing, though; at this current pace, he’ll become a story soon enough for all of the right reasons.

His transition to New York has been as seamless as possible.

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Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.