The Blue Jackets boosted their offensive fire power Friday when they added 25-year-old Artemi Panarin to the roster via a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Panarin joins the Jackets along with 22-year-old forward Tyler Motte and a sixth-round draft pick in the 2017 Draft in exchange for Brandon Saad, goaltender, Anton Forsberg and a 2018 fifth-round draft pick.
Panarin has produced 74 or more points in each of the last two seasons, his first two years in the NHL. His 151 total points ties him for 7th overall in the NHL with Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Jamie Benn, Nicolas Backstrom, Erik Karlsson and Blake Wheeler in that same two-year span.
Panarin was the 2015-16 NHL Rookie of the Year. He led all first-year players in goals, assists, points and game-winning goals. He played for bronze medal winning Team Russia in the 2017 IIHF World Championships and represented his country in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
"We've been looking for scoring," Jarmo Kekalainen said. "(We wanted) a guy who was a game breaker kind of talent and obviously, the stats speak for themselves with Artemi. He's a first line talent that can put the games away in the big moments and has that special talent that we're looking for."
Video: Jarmo Kekalainen on the Artemi Panarin trade
Panarin has shown the ability to produce offense not only in five-on-five play, but also on the power play. In his rookie season, Panarin (30-47-77) had eight power play goals. Last year, had nine goals with the man advantage along with eight assists, good enough for second overall in power play points for Chicago. He netted 31 goals in total last season (31-43-74).
"Power plays are the important part of special teams and an important part putting tight games away," Kekalainen said. "We all know that when a game gets really tight, especially in the playoffs, the power play has huge importance, and Panarin is one of the best power play players there is in the NHL."
According to Hockeyanalysis.com, among players with 200-plus minutes of power play time, last season Panarin had 2.28 goals and 4.06 points per 60 minutes of play on the power play. He was second only to Patrick Kane among all Blackhawks in both categories.
In five-on-five play, Panarin was second in points per 60 for the Blackhawks (2.10), second in total points, second in power play points, and the top forward in Corsi For % at even strength (56.5%) quantifying his ability to generate offense for his team.
Panarin's on-ice performance is already impressive, and what's more exciting about the player is that he's just entering his prime. Kekalainen considers the 5-foot-11 forward to be "one of the most dynamic players in the League."
Video: Newest player to the Blue Jackets, Artemi Panarin
"He's got a lot of courage for a guy who's not the biggest guys," Kekalainen said. "But one of the things we've noticed in the NHL in the past years is it's getting faster and faster. This is a dynamic player who has tremendous speed and quickness and that one-on-one ability to create odd-man situations and with his individual skill, create time and space and scoring opportunities."
It's easy for some to think Panarin's performance in Chicago comes from playing the majority of his time with elite players like Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, but Jackets' alumni and broadcaster Jody Shelley sees it differently. Shelley says Panarin's talent for putting the puck in the net and ability to make his teammates better is what makes his so special all on his own.
"(If you're Panarin), you have to have talent that works at a high level to play with elite players," Shelley said. "You have to find chemistry, and you can't find that if you can't play at that high level. Elite players want the puck back immediately when they give it up and a lot players can't get it back to them. Then you get caught trying to force the puck back to them. Which really is breaking up the play.
"The other concern playing with elite talent is that any time you're on the ice you almost feel like your job is to get the puck to them. When you have a player (like Panarin) who can keep the puck and make the play, it's more effective for the other players to get lost in the shuffle and get in position to make a play."
Tyler Motte was the other player acquired in Friday's transaction. A former teammate of Jackets' defenseman Zach Werenski while at University of Michigan, Motte played 33 games with the Blackhawks last season and scored four goals and three assists. In 43 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, Motte had ten goals and six assists.
The Jackets aren't an unknown entity to the Michigan native. He's not only familiar with Werenski, but he played with Nick Foligno in last year's IIHF World Championships. During his time with the US National Development Team, Motte even lived with the same billet family that had hosted Foligno.
Motte is excited to join a young talented team like the Jackets and he's looking forward to the Blue Jackets and their fans getting to know him.
"I pride myself on being a two-way reliable forward," Motte said. "I take pride in my play the d-zone. As much as I like to score, I like to pay a price and block shots in the defensive zone. I think my favorite aspect of the game is killing penalties. I try to attach with speed and find my way to get to the crease where most of the goals are scored in this league."