What is the Hart Memorial Trophy?
The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is not supposed to be awarded to the best player in the league (sorry, Connor McDavid, you shouldn’t be winning it this year if your team can’t sniff the playoffs). There are some valid candidates across the league, Nathan Mackinnon and Taylor Hall among them.
Artemi Panarin should be getting more buzz than he is. His value to his team has been unquestioned and he has single handedly helped carry the offense through long stretches of the season. The Columbus Blue Jackets would not be anywhere close to the playoff picture without his offensive contributions, and his play as well as his leadership was rewarded with him wearing an “A” on his jersey for the first time in Edmonton on Tuesday night.
Artemi Panarin deserves consideration for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
As of Tuesday’s Edmonton game, Artemi Panarin has 26 goals, 45 assists, and 71 points this season. That is not the highest number in the league, nor is it particularly close. However, his contributions to his team have been invaluable. Panarin is one of only two forwards (along with Pierre-Luc Dubois) to even cross the 40 point mark this season, though Seth Jones (a defenseman) has 50 for the season. Panarin’s +20 on the season places him second on the team, behind Alex Wennberg’s +25. He is tied for the team lead with 5 game winning goals this season.
Thanks to the woeful power play, Panarin is doing most of his damage at even strength. 20 of his 26 goals and a whopping 35 of his 45 assists are at even strength. His assist numbers at even strength are good for 11th in the league, while his goal total at even strength is good for 39th. His game winning goal total is good for a tie for 27th in the NHL. His point total puts him in a tie for 26th, just ahead of former Blue Jacket William Karlsson.
Panarin also leads regular Columbus skaters in CF% with a whopping 57.28%. Among NHL skaters with a minimum of 500 minutes played this season, that total is good for 6th in the NHL. He has drawn 17 penalties this season, has 60 takeaways to only 35 giveaways at even strength, and is one of three players for the club to have played every game this season (along with Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand).
So, why should he be in consideration despite a relatively low ranking among the rest of the league leaders in those categories? Because the Columbus Blue Jackets would not sniff the playoff race without Panarin’s play. Look at how much of his team’s offense he creates:
Panarin’s play at even strength speaks for itself. His Fenwick percentage (shots for + misses divided by shots against + shots against missed) is 58.1%, which is stellar. His CF/60 is a whopping 70.2. He has averaged 2.5 points per 60 minutes this season at even strength, all of which shows how much of an offensive force he is.
None of the above covers the things we see with Panarin on a night in, night out basis. He makes passes no one on the team can make. He makes plays, like this one, that no one else on the ice even thinks to make.
He makes little plays to break up plays in the neutral zone to spring rushes up the ice. He plays with a fire and a work ethic on every shift that is infectious.
Also, to note: at the most critical time of year, when the Blue Jackets had no room for error and were making a push for the playoffs, Artemi Panarin put up 9-12-21 in 15 games as the team went on a ten game winning streak.
He will not win the Hart Memorial Trophy. But if it truly is an award for who is most valuable to their team, Artemi Panarin deserves consideration. The Columbus Blue Jackets would not be in the playoff hunt if they had not traded for him last summer.
*all stats up to date through Tuesday, March 27 (Thursday’s game vs. Calgary not included)