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For Your Consideration: Artemiy Panarin for the Hart Trophy

The first entry in a series which chronicles Artemiy Panarin’s Hart Trophy case.

Artemiy Panarin is having a sensational season. He’s on pace to have one of the best in franchise history, and potentially one of the better campaigns in recent NHL history.

Sometime after the All-Star break seemed best to talk about where he stands in the Hart Trophy race with the view of the finish line in clearer view. But then this story came out...

And to that I say...

It is Oscar season, as the nominees were just announced. Prior to nominees being selected, there’s a period in which the studios lobby the Academy with clips so that their film, and members of the cast, crew etc., are nominated for awards. So, why not give it a hockey spin for one of the most talked about awards of the season?

With that said, let’s start campaigning. Consider this the introduction of a series called, “For Your Consideration: Artemiy Panarin for the Hart Trophy.

As the season progresses, this series will look at some of the top contenders — which at this point, should include Panarin. So, let’s set a baseline for the winger that can be reevaluated as time goes on.

Simply stated, why should Panarin be in the running for the Hart Trophy as of January 14?

  • Per Evolving-Hockey, Panarin has been worth 19.2 goals above replacement which is first among forwards, and second overall in the league behind Ryan Ellis
  • Panarin also has been worth 3.4 wins above replacement, which is first among all forwards and tied for first overall with Ellis
  • Panarin’s 52 even strength points are first in the league, 10 ahead of Nathan MacKinnon who sits in second place
  • Panarin’s 67 points are third among all skaters, and he trails Edmonton Oilers teammates Leon Draisaitl (70) and Connor McDavid (71) by three and four points respectively.
  • Panarin leads his team in scoring, and is 25 points clear of the team’s second leading scorer Ryan Strome; someone that’s greatly benefited from Panarin

All of this is to say that Panarin’s really firing on all cylinders, and is one of the best in the league right now.

Panarin is currently on pace to finish with a line of 47-75-122, and that would see him fall one point short of tying the Rangers’ team record for most points in a season which was set in the 2005-06 season by Jaromir Jagr.

Last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov, finished the year with 128 points, and that’s a number that could ultimately be exceeded by McDavid, Draisaitl, and perhaps Panarin if either were to have another huge points run in them. For reference, Panarin’s picked up 34 points in the 20 games he’s played in since December 1, and 12 points in the six games he’s played in calendar year 2020.

As a whole, the above are high level numbers which should illustrate why Panarin’s not only in the conversation, but why he should be among the leaders, if not the favorite. Not only is he an elite scorer, but clearly, the most valuable player on his team.

But when it comes to voting for the Hart Trophy, there’s been a tendency in recent years to look at whether or not a candidate’s team made the playoffs. Right now the Rangers are on the outside looking in, and trail the last Wild Card spot by six points.

This is because voters look at the definition which reads — “the Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his team.”

Based on this definition, there are many who won’t vote for a player from a team that failed to make the playoffs with the rationale being, “if they were really the most valuable they would have done more to get their team into the playoffs.” But that’s a short-sighted way to look at a player’s performance, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that the last Hart Trophy winner whose team missed the playoffs was Mario Lemieux back in the 1987-88 season.

Exceptional players who miss the playoffs often fall short of the Hart, but instead, are in the race for the Ted Lindsay Award, a trophy that is awarded to the league’s most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by the members of the NHL Players’ Association.

Connor McDavid won the award in 2016-17 along with the Hart Trophy when the Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs, but only took home the Ted Lindsay Award in 2017-18 as Edmonton missed the playoffs. That season he finished fifth in the voting, even though he led the league in scoring with 108 points. McDavid finished fourth in GAR and WAR that year, so it’s quite possible that he didn’t really deserve it considering the year before he finished No. 1 in both categories by a healthy margin.

So this brings us back to Panarin, someone who currently is in a good place among skaters in the entire league. How can we quantify what he currently means to the team?

One way is looking at his impact to the team when he’s on the ice, and how the team performs with him off.

We can clearly see that the Rangers offensively are +13 percent with Panarin on, and -6 percent without him, which is a swing of 19 percent. When it comes to defensive impact, the Rangers are five percent worse than the rest of the league with Panarin on, but 20 percent worse with him off, so the difference he has is a 15 percent improvement. This is a quick and dirty way of looking at things, but in conjunction with his other metrics, we can add some more context.

Some additional numbers of note are Panarin’s individual performance, and his performance relative to his teammates which include:

  • 65.80 GF% (1st) | 2.05 RelTM G±/60 (1st)
  • 49.74 CF% (2nd) | 9.56 RelTM C±/60 (2nd)
  • 51.30 xGF% (4th) | 0.44 RelTM xG±/60 (5th)

We’ll continue to update this series as the season continues, but thus far there’s compelling evidence in Panarin’s favor right now when it comes to the Hart Trophy. In many ways his impact has been similar to that of Jagr back in 2005-06, as he’s propelled a team that wasn’t expected to do all that much. The overall circumstances and overall roster composition is vastly different, and that’s something that really plays in Panarin’s favor,

That said, it would be remiss not to say that there’s been other players who have played a role in the Rangers success thus far, but none quite like Panarin.

Stats via Evolving-Hockey, Hockey-Reference, and HockeyViz unless otherwise noted. All stats and ranks are prior to play on January 14.