International Ice Hockey Federation

Panarin prospers

Panarin prospers

Gagarin Cup winner takes another step up

Published 08.05.2015 09:50 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Panarin prospers
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 1: Russia's Artemi Panarin #9 stickhandles the puck against Team Norway during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Russia's Chicago-bound forward proves to be a hit even though his team is struggling to show its best form in Ostrava.

Artemi Panarin, making his first World Championship appearance for Russia, has been one of the bright spots of a frustrating campaign for his country.

The young forward, who is heading to the Chicago Blackhawks after helping SKA St. Petersburg to win the Gagarin Cup this season, has 2+4=6 points from four games, and is playing a key role on Russia’s most productive line.

Even so, he’s not inclined to talk up his own contribution, modestly sharing the acclaim with his line-mates Vadim Shipachyov and Yevgeni Dadonov.

“I was really happy to get my first goal in the World Championship but my partners helped me a lot,” he said after the opening win against Norway.

“Right from the start they were creating chances, setting me up so it was harder not to score. For the goal Shipachyov conjured up a pass that did all the work for me. The guys kept the puck for me as a souvenir.”

Yet that same line, which has posted 20 points for Russia here after sharing 61 post-season points for SKA, is soon to be broken up. Panarin is heading to Chicago while Shipachyov and Dadonov remain in St. Petersburg. In future if they play together it will only happen in international hockey.

Panarin admits that playing in the NHL wasn’t a childhood dream – in a video statement released on SKA’s website he refelcted that as a youngster he just wanted to buy a car and a stereo – but he’s eager to seize the opportunity that is presenting itself in Chicago. “I’ve got the chance to test my skills in the NHL and I want to take that chance,” he told the club’s fans. “I don’t know how it will work out, but I hope that you won’t forget me and will keep on supporting me. I’ll never forget St. Petersburg: I’ll always remember the good times here and I’ll miss the place. But now I want to prove that Russian hockey players are the best!”

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At first sight it seems like a long journey from the lowly Vityaz organization where he made his KHL debut in 2008. That Moscow Region team is perhaps better known for its notorious game-halting brawl with Avangard in 2010 than for nurturing talented players.

Yet Panarin isn’t the only player to emerge from that club and achieve greater things. His team-mates in the 2011-12 season included Mikhail Anisin and Yevgeni Timkin, both of whom have also hoisted the Gagarin Cup with Dynamo Moscow and Metallurg Magnitogorsk respectively.

Panarin’s big move to SKA in 2013 coincided with the team’s subtle switch in focus. Instead of bringing in big-name stars, the organization looked to uncover talented prospects and meld them into a winning team. Panarin was part of that process, as was the signing of Atlant Moscow Region’s young defenceman Roman Rukavishnikov, another candidate for the national team who just missed out on a call-up to Ostrava. It’s a tactic that earned the approval of Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, the Ak Bars Kazan head coach whose team lost out to SKA in that Gagarin Cup final.

“Pretty much everyone they signed this season was a player with big potential,” he said. “And then you have Panarin, who is one of a kind in the KHL. Just take a look at his line. It’s incredible!”

Now the youngster, still just 23, is earning the respect of the American players in Ostrava, even before he makes his debut across the Atlantic.

Defenceman Torey Krug faced Panarin earlier this week and despite Russia’s 4-2 defeat against the USA, the Boston Bruins man was impressed with what he saw and likened him to his own team’s first round draft pick from the season just gone.

“He’s got a ton of skill,” Krug said. “Talking to some of the guys who’ve seen him play more than me, they compared to [David] Pastrnak at Boston.

“He’s fast, he’s got a lot of skill and he makes those kind of quick plays that you see a lot in North American players. I think he’s going to fit in well in Chicago.”

Panarin came out of that game with just one assist, much to the relief of US goalie Jack Campbell. “Panarin’s a hot little player, he’s deadly out there,” he said. “Our defence did a great job of limiting his chances.”

While Russia’s uneven performances so far have disappointed the huge expectations of the team’s fans, Panarin, at least, is emerging as an unreserved success story.


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