Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Artemi Panarin's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: Oct. 30, 1991
Height/Weight: 5-11, 168
Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 79 GP, 29-58-87, 9.7 PS
Contract: Unrestricted free agent
The line above -- unrestricted free agent -- is the phrase that echoed over Panarin's entire season, but the fantastically skilled Russian played most of the campaign as though it was the furthest thing from his mind.
Panarin went out and turned in another record-breaking campaign, setting again the franchise record for assists and points in a season while serving as the team's most talented and impactful forward yet again.
Time will tell where things go but it's pretty much impossible to deny that Panarin might be the most fun player in Blue Jackets history, from his ability with the puck on his stick -- whether it be passing it, shooting it, or merely protecting it -- to the postgame dance moves he'd break out after big victories.
Entering the season: Panarin was counted upon to be a difference maker again after his impressive initial campaign in Columbus. He'd been dogged by comments upon being traded to the Blue Jackets that he would struggle to adjust after losing longtime running mate Patrick Kane in Chicago, but Panarin set a career-high and CBJ franchise record with 82 points in his first season in the capital city in 2017-18.
One of the most talented and dynamic players in the NHL, he was expected to be a first-line standout and gamebreaker with the Blue Jackets coming into the season.
What happened: Pretty much exactly that. Panarin was again electric while playing most of the season on the team's first line. Whereas Pierre-Luc Dubois was the muscle and Cam Atkinson the sniper, Panarin was the creative, do-it-all force who helped not only push the team back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs but into the second round.
In addition to his career- and franchise-record assist (58) and point (87) totals, Panarin set a number of other franchise marks including 25 multipoint games, one more than the previous team record set by Rick Nash in 2008-09.
In the postseason, he was a huge part of the team's success, including a two-goal, three-point performance in Game 2 at Boston that allowed the team to earn the overtime win. He also had the series-clinching empty-netter vs. Tampa Bay.
Picking just one highlight to encapsulate Panarin's skills is nearly impossible. Should we go with a dazzling assist or perhaps one of the many difficult goals Panarin made look ridiculously easy this year? In the end, we chose an easy goal, but one that will resonate in Columbus for a long time -- his series-clinching empty-net goal in Game 4 of the Tampa series. Panarin added a lot to the Blue Jackets over the past two years, but his contributions may never be more important than this one.
Video: TBL@CBJ, Gm4: Panarin extends lead with empty-netter
By the Numbers
- 17: Panarin finished 17th in the NHL in points this season, tied with Colorado's Mikko Rantanen. That's the best mark for a CBJ player since Ryan Johansen finished 16th with 71 points in 2014-15 - a stat that makes you appreciate how scoring has gone up in the NHL the past few seasons.
- 12.2: Panarin finished plus-12.2 in expected goal differential this season according to Hockey-Reference.com, a mark that led the Blue Jackets and placed 41st in the NHL. His mark of 72.4 expected goals for placed 20th among skaters.
- 4: Panarin had four overtime goals this season, which led the team and set a franchise record. In fact, he finished one away from tying the NHL's all-time record for OT goals in one season.