How Rangers' Artemi Panarin Stacks Up Amongst Hart Trophy Candidates

Sean Hartnett
June 16, 2020 - 11:16 am
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If the 2020 Hart Trophy race can be whittled down to three solid candidates – Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin are the most deserving.

Expect this to be a close vote. There’s compelling cases to be made for each superstar.

Draisaitl led the NHL with 67 assists, 110 points and 44 power play points in 71 games played. He shared the league lead with 10 game-winning goals. Aside from Morgan Geekie, who played two games, Draisaitl’s 1.55 points per game topped the NHL. His 43 goals trailed only Alex Ovechkin, David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews.

“The way he played this year, it's absolutely no question for me,” Pastrnak told reporters on a Zoom conference call with the media. “For me, (it’s) what Leon Draisaitl was showing up the whole season. A lot of people say, ‘Oh he’s playing with Connor’ and stuff. Connor (McDavid) was hurt for a month or two and he brought it up even another level up. For me it’s absolutely no question it’s going to be and it should be Leon Draisaitl because the way he played this year there is absolutely no question for me.”

Plenty of Hart Trophy voters are likely to highly value the period where Draisaitl carried Edmonton’s offense while McDavid was injured. His shooting percentage of 19.7 was significantly higher than Panarin (15.3 percent) and MacKinnon (11 percent). Perhaps, the one knock against Draisaitl is his reputation as an inconsistent defensive player.

MacKinnon finished fifth in the NHL with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games played. Carrying the load for an injury-ravaged Avalanche team could swing votes in his favor. Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri all missed significant playing time. Colorado still finished with 92 points for second-best in the Western Conference and may have finished equal to the St. Louis Blues’ 94 points had they played a 71st game.

Makar was Colorado’s second-leading scorer with 50 points. Draisaitl played alongside 97-point McDavid and 61-point Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Panarin teamed with 75-point Mika Zibanejad and 59-point Ryan Strome.

MacKinnon recently stated on TSN 1050 that Panarin should win the Hart Trophy.

“I knew he was a free agent so I was kind of watching him with Columbus. What an amazing player,” MacKinnon said. “And then I watched him all season. Just from talking to him, really nice guy, so maybe I'm a little biased with that – but that's why I think he should win the Hart this year."

Panarin finished the regular season tied for third with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) in 69 games played. He led the NHL with 59 five-on-five points and 71 even-strength points. Among players to skate in over 55 games, Panarin led the league with 3.26 points per 60 minutes and 2.10 assists per 60 minutes.

The 28-year-old wing propelled a Rangers team that few expected fireworks from into the playoff conversation. By virtue of the NHL’s 24-team playoff format, the Blueshirts qualified for the postseason.

Panarin is also an advanced stats darling. According to Evolving Hockey’s metrics, Panarin led the NHL with 24.9 goals above replacement, 4.4 wins above replacement and 8.5 standings points above replacement. These statistics provide strong evidence of the difference Panarin made in his first year in New York.

If I were to venture a guess, Draisaitl wins the Hart Trophy by a nose. That’s probably because some older voters might not have an appreciation or understanding of advanced statistics. When you’re looking for separation for three worthy candidates, advanced metrics paints the picture of just how much better Panarin makes the Rangers.

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