When discussing the NHL awards, the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the league’s most valuable player, remains the most prestigious of them all. Is someone missing from the conversation this season, perhaps someone on the New York Rangers?
The New York Rangers made a splash last summer signing superstar forward Artemi Panarin to a long term seven-year deal. Panarin enjoyed a plethora of success during his time with both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets; both were two-year stints.
Panarin burst on the scene in 2015 with the Blackhawks as a 24-year-old rookie scoring 30 goals, adding 47 assists totaling a stellar 77-point season that landed him the NHL’s Calder Trophy awarded to the leagues’ top rookie.
The New York Rangers are in the midst of a complicated playoff race. Leading up to the NHL trade deadline, the Rangers were able to come to terms on a long-term contract extension with forward Chris Kreider, signaling the team would continue to compete for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, Kreider has since fractured a foot and is likely to miss a lengthy amount of time.
Every game for the Rangers is critical the rest of the way. New York is on the outside looking in at the moment, but just a mere four points out of a wild card spot. The Rangers currently trail Carolina and Panarin’s former employer the Columbus Blue Jackets in a tight-knit playoff race.
When it comes to the Hart Trophy, although it’s an individual award, it seems voters generally take team success into the decision. With the Rangers on the outside looking in, Panarin’s name continues to get lost in the shuffle behind Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Alex Ovechkin.
Panarin is having himself a career year in the Big Apple under the bright lights of New York, as he’s already set career-highs in goals (32) and points (90) and he’s a career-best plus-34 on the season.
Interestingly, his Corsi For Percentage is at a career-low, according to Hockey Reference, but perhaps that’s due to playing with some lesser talented teammates on a “rebuilding” Rangers’ team? His 50.5 rating is respectable, but a far cry from the 57.0 and 54.8 percent over the last two seasons with the Blue Jackets.
Panarin should already be considered in the conversation for the league MVP award. However, if the Rangers happen to claw their way into the playoff tournament, he shouldn’t just be in contention for the award, he should be the front runner to win it. Panarin not only leads the Rangers in points, but he’s also remarkably about 30 points ahead of any of his teammates this season. Keep an eye on the surging superstar as the 2019-20 NHL season winds down this month.
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