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Panarin has points to prove with Blue Jackets

Forward determined to show he can succeed away from Blackhawks, Kane

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin was charming and self-deprecating despite the language barrier during his first local media event since being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Brandon Saad on June 23.

But there also was a glimpse of his competitiveness when asked if his 151 points (60 goals, 91 assists) in 162 NHL games the past two seasons, tied for seventh among all players, mainly were the result of Blackhawks linemate Patrick Kane.

"Throughout my career, including Russia in my very last season, people always say I am playing because of somebody else," Panarin said via translation by his agent, Dan Milstein. "Nobody remembers how I played prior to the last couple of years. I am used to it and I am not paying attention to it. I get a little bit angry at it."

That's when Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen stepped in.

"It should be noted that Patrick Kane had a couple of his best seasons of his career too playing with Artemi, so it goes both ways," he said.

Video: CHI@LAK: Panarin finishes Kane's cross-ice dish

"Thank you," Panarin said, in English, to laughter.

Kane led all players the past two seasons with 195 points (80 goals, 115 assists), and they were his two highest-scoring seasons: A League-high 106 points (46 goals, 50 assists) in 2015-16 and 89 points (34 goals, 55 assists) last season.

"He's definitely not a one-dimensional player as a shooter," Kekalainen said of Panarin. "He's also a great passer and creates offense by beating people 1-on-1 with his skill and speed and quickness, but also with a great pass. He's shown that type of chemistry with Kane, who's an excellent passer as well. He's going to get the opportunity to play with our best as well."

Panarin likely will start at left wing alongside center Alexander Wennberg, who had his most productive season in 2016-17 with 59 points (13 goals, 46 assists). Wennberg is a restricted free agent.

Coach John Tortorella has the final decision on the lineup. Panarin said he talked briefly on the phone with his new coach and said, "We haven't agreed to anything yet."

What is known is that Panarin will be on the top power play and is expected to be the dynamic scorer the Blue Jackets thought they lacked during their five-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Video: CHI@COL: Panarin nets PPG to open the scoring

"We realized it was obvious in the playoffs Pittsburgh needed a lot less chances to score a goal than we did because we sort of outplayed them in most of the five games, but they outscored us," Kekalainen said. "That was one of the conclusions after the playoffs, that we've got to put the puck into the net. He'll bring that quality."

Panarin said he's ready for a fresh start with Columbus after playing in the shadows of Kane and Jonathan Toews.

"I played with world-class players in Chicago," he said. "I learned a lot from them and coming here I have to be psychologically and mentally stronger.

"I'm going to bring lots of smiles and good moments for the players and lots of goals as well."

Video: Which line will Artmei Panarin play on in Columbus?

And his sense of humor.

Panarin will wear No. 9 with the Blue Jackets because the No. 72 he wore in Chicago belongs to his friend, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, although there might be a fight for it.

"I brought boxing gloves and it will be decided later," Panarin said, before adding, "There were no options with him having two Vezina trophies. No chance."

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