Artemi Panarin made his official debut as a Columbus Blue Jacket Wednesday. While he quickly showed that he has as much talent giving a clever quote as he does shooting a hockey puck, the 25-year-old also revealed that he has a quiet confidence in his abilities and he is coming to his new team with something to prove.
"I'll bring lots of smiles, good moments for fans, and goals," Panarin said through a translator.
That's exactly what the Blue Jackets are expecting.
In front of assembled media, Jackets' general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was quick to share the many reasons why Panarin is expected to be a big part of taking the team to the next level. There's Panarin's lethal one-timer; his ability to play on both sides of the ice as a right-handed shot; and that's just the beginning of the list.
But there's also something more. While the player who has been nicknamed "Bread Man" is quick to give a grin and say something that will make you laugh, he's serious about his play.
In 82 games with the Chicago Blackhawks last year, Panarin had 32 goals and 43 assists. During the 2015-16 year, the 5-foot-11 forward scored 30 goals and 47 assists in 80 games. Some hockey voices have deferred giving the young Russian full credit for such performances because, in those two years, Panarin played most frequently with All-Star Patrick Kane.
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But Panarin doesn't think he has anything to prove. He's used to people looking for the "why" behind his talent and it doesn't factor into how he plays.
"I want to continue progressing," Panarin said. "I'm going to show up every game. Throughout my career, people always said I'm playing (well) because of somebody else. Nobody remembers when I played prior to the last couple years. I'm used to (the comparisons) and I don't pay any attention to it."
And don't brush away Panarin's comments as arrogance. They come from a hard-earned confidence for a forward who went undrafted and played four 40-plus game seasons in the KHL before coming to North America.
Each progression along his career came step-by-step. Sometimes in ways Panarin says he didn't understand at the time. But as one goal was achieved, a new one was set.
"The appetite comes with the food," Panarin said.
So what's the goal now?
On the ice, Panarin wants to be a difference maker. In addition to those goals and smiles, he said Wednesday that he plans to "help the team win many trophies."
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Off the ice, he wants to contribute to his team as well.
"I want to be helpful and not only work on myself," Panarin said. "It's important to help the team and raise the bar for myself."
And while Panarin came to Columbus knowing only fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky, he met about ten other teammates Wednesday. In addition, he had a chance to take in the city of Columbus and tour Nationwide Arena with Kekalainen and president of hockey operations, John Davidson.
Now, as the off-season winds down, Panarin will travel to train before returning to Columbus for an upcoming season bursting with opportunity.
"We have a young group," Kekalainen said. "They are ambitious to get to the next level, ambitious to get better as players, and ambitious to win. (Panarin) will fit perfectly into that."