Artemi Panarin
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin as been worth every penny on Broadway as his team battles for a playoff spot. 

Frank Curto

The smile on Artemi Panarin’s face is contagious. The wrists on his arms are filthy. Trying to balance the contrasting elements of the man (inviting, scary) is the tough part.

It’s perhaps the only tough part about Panarin’s arrival in the big city. The Rangers’ leading scorer has had an incredible first season on Broadway.

The 28-year-old has been scoring goals and piling up the points this season. The Rangers haven’t had an offensive talent of this kind since Jaromir Jagr over a decade ago. Before that, maybe Wayne Gretzky.

Panarin is that next guy—the man who makes the Garden oh and ah every time the World’s Most Famous Arena hosts a hockey game.

The veteran has registered 67 points in 45 games this season. The only two players who have recorded more points in the Rangers’ first 45 games of a season in franchise history are Jean Ratelle (79 points in 1971-72) and the previously mentioned Jagr (69 points in 2005-06) via @NYRStatsinfo.

Everyone recognized that Panarin was a good hockey player. He’s someone who can single-handedly win a game when it’s needed the most.

Mika Zibanejad was quoted as saying, “I mean, I knew he (Panarin) was really good. I didn’t know he was this good,” via Loud.com’s Vince Mercogliano.

He’s been on another level with the Rangers from the moment he put on that No. 10 sweater.

The team had been scoring goals the old “by committee” way for many seasons. Now, this team that’s a melting pot of veterans and rookies is learning how to score goals relying on a bonafide goal scorer.

The numbers tell a grand story

Panarin’s numbers in the first 46 games of his Rangers career are staggering.

  • 26 Goals
  • 41 Assists
  • 67 Points

In the 46 games, he’s been held pointless in just nine of them.

The Rangers have won their last five games at home with the Bread Man recording five goals and 14 points.

Panarin has registered 11 goals with 30 points over the last 15 games. He’s one of the biggest reasons the Rangers are contending for a playoff spot. The guy is having more fun on the ice than anyone else in the NHL. His high leg kicks following a goal have now become a trademark in New York City as much as the team’s salute at the end of games following a win.

He even had Brady Skjei trying to imitate the leg kick after the Rangers defeated the New York Islanders on Monday night at the Garden.

His skill set on the ice has made every player around him more relaxed.

Just look at how well fellow linemate Ryan Strome is playing. The two have fed off one another for practically the entire season. Of all the line changes and different combinations the coaching staff has come up with, these two have remained the “Batman and Robin” of Gotham City.

Strome has recorded 12 goals and 42 points in 45 games this season. They’ve been a formidable one-two punch for a team that’s just becoming used to scoring goals in bunches this season.

Jesper Fast is another Rangers who’s taken advantage of the Bread Man’s skills. With eight goals and 21 points in 45 games, Quickie has had plenty of scoring chances and has become an important component on the wing with Panarin and Strome.

In the team’s last five home games (the same five where the Bread Man has recorded 14 points), the Rangers as a team have scored five or more goals in each of those five wins. This comes from a total of 27 shots that found the back of the opposition’s net.

Artemi Panarin, The Bread Man T-Shirt

The foundation has been poured

Panarin is the happy ring leader of this squad. His stature off the ice has additionally proven beneficial. With the young Russian players on the team, sometimes a little homegrown “talking’ is just what the homeland players need.

Alexandar Georgiev, Igor Shesterkin and even Pavel Buchnevich have surely benefited from Panarin’s presence with the team. Whether he’s helping them understand what the coaching staff is laying out or just lightening the mood, Artemi is helping the team.

Panarin has been on the point for the Rangers No. 1 power-play unit most of the season. They have never had such a confident quarterback to run the man advantage. Even at times when the special team doesn’t score, it’s always putting shots on goal. This is a direct result of his presence on the ice.

He’s contributed in every way possible while a proud Ranger, but what he won’t do is praise himself and the season he’s having.

The Rangers’ lone 2020 representative at this year’s NHL All-Star game in St. Louis had this to say to Mercogliano about himself: “Nothing new. I’m playing the same as I was before. I’m just trying to play each game 100% and see how it goes.”

A modest response by a player who keeps scoring goals and carrying a team that has struggled so much since the 2015 season.

One man, alone, can’t carry a team for a full 82 games plus potential playoff games. What Artemi Panarin can do, though, is make everyone around him a better player and a better person.

All-in-all, it’s incredible what one contagious smile and two filthy wrists can bring to a hockey team.

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