Artemi Panarin is having himself one heck of an NHL rookie campaign with the Chicago Blackhawks. He sits alone at 9th in league scoring with 38 points, and he’s second on his team only behind league leader Patrick Kane (60).
In terms of rookies he’s tops in points and in both goals (15), and assists (23). He’s a full 10 points and 2 leader board pages up on rookie number two, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin.
Panarin would seem to be a lock for the Calder at this point in the season.
But looking more closely at the numbers, Larkin is making more of a case than the average fan might realize.
Panarin leads all rookies in points, but he’s also tied for the rookie lead in time on ice, at 18:56 minutes per game on average. Compare that to Larkin’s 16:53 average. You can even compare that to the averages of Detroit’s two veteran stars, Pavel Datsyuk(19:24) and Henrik Zetterberg(19:07). With two minutes less per game to work with, Larkin has just 1 less goal, and in fact has 4 game winning goals, one more than Panarin. Larkin has 10 fewer points, but oddly enough, Panarin also gets an average of 2:48 ice time on the power play. Larkin gets just 2:02. The result is that Panarin has 10 power play points to Larkin’s two. That’s an easy way to make up the difference.
I know the argument. We can’t punish Panarin just because he gets more ice time in a game. But the real feather we can put in Larkin’s cap is this: the Detroit Red Wings sit just 20th in team scoring with 100 total goals. Chicago has 116 goals, good for 9th place. With more ice time on a team that has scored 16 more goals, Panarin has a plus minus of just +10. Dylan Larkin leads the entire league at +22. That’s remarkable for any player, let alone a rookie.
One last thing. Artemi Panarin is 24 years old, and already has 9 years of experience in the KHL, the top professional league in Russia.
Dylan Larkin is just 19, played US Collegiate hockey, and then appeared in 6 games in the AHL playoffs last season, putting up 5 points.
Even with 9 years of professional experience, I’m still ok with calling Panarin a rookie in the NHL. It is what it is. Let him be eligible for the Calder. But taking age and experience into account, I’d prefer Larkin as the future of my franchise and I give more credence to what he’s accomplished.
The Detroit Red Wings aren’t afraid to use him in any situation. He plays centre and is trusted in key face off situations, he plays with every line, and is often on the ice in crucial late minutes.
If the season ended today, I would give Dylan Larkin the Calder Trophy 100 times out of 100.