When former Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson acquired Artem Anisimov as part of the Rick Nash trade in July 2012, he did so with confidence that the 24-year-old lanky Russian center would flourish in an expanded role with a bigger opportunity.
In his first game with the Blue Jackets - opening night 2013 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville - Anisimov scored an artful goal in the second period to tie the game, finishing a backhander top-shelf on Pekka Rinne with a Predators defenseman draped on his back.
It was only the first of many big moments for Anisimov in 2013, a season that earned him a three-year contract extension from new GM Jarmo Kekalainen in the summer.
Fast forward 15 months and Anisimov scored another big goal in Nashville just a few days ago, capping off a spectacular week for both he and the Jackets. Anisimov scored the go-ahead goal for Columbus late in the third period, and it was the only goal in an important bounce-back 1-0 victory.
That was six goals in six games for Anisimov out of the Olympic break, but you’d have to rewind a few weeks back to get to the core of his red-hot play.
Anisimov said the experience of playing for his home country at the Sochi Olympics was one of the best of his life, and not only was it a fond memory, but a tremendous learning experience as he spent time around some of the game’s best players.
“It was a good experience in the Olympics,” Anisimov said. “Every shift is important, and you play against the best players (in the world) every game. I’m around great players and it helped my confidence.
“If they can do it, why can’t I do the same things they do? Now I just go out there and play.”
Anisimov, 25, has taken the ball and gone sprinting in his second season with Columbus. He’s grabbed hold of one of the top two center positions on the team, and has become one of coach Todd Richards’ go-to penalty killers.
His face-off percentage has steadily improved and hovers around the 50 percent efficiency mark, and he’s been particularly better of late. Anisimov has been 53 percent or better in seven of his last 10 games, and though he didn’t get on the scoresheet in the Jackets’ 4-1 win over Detroit on Tuesday, he fired four shots on goal and won 54 percent of his draws.
A strong week for both Anisimov and the Jackets - the team went 3-1-0 and he scored the game-winning goal in all three victories (a franchise record) - earned him a much-deserved second star of the week honor from the NHL.
The dependability and intelligence of Anisimov’s game has helped him develop into one of the Blue Jackets’ core pieces, Richards said.
“He’s had a real positive impact for our team and scored some big goals,” Richards said. “We’ve talked about (Nikita) Nikitin playing some of his best hockey, and I think with Arty, it’s the same thing. This is some of the best hockey I’ve seen Arty play.
“He’s a reliable, smart player and I think we all know that he’s a talented guy. Now he’s starting to get rewarded a little bit, and we’re starting to see his talent.”
- Anisimov named second star of the week (Mar. 3-9)
- Jackets shaken by Peverley incident in Dallas
- Comeau faces disciplinary hearing with NHL Player Safety
- (Video) Anisimov's third-period goal vs. Dallas