NHL on NBC: Panarin living up to hype in New York

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Friday NHL Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Free agency can be hit-or-miss in any league, including the NHL, but it’s safe to say that the New York Rangers’ decision to pursue Artemi Panarin hasn’t been a flop.

In his first year with New York, Panarin has posted 12 goals and 32 points in only 23 games. Heading into this season, his career-high in points was 87 (he did that last year with Columbus). So far, he’s on pace to pick up 114 points. That may or may not happen, but there’s no denying that he’s off to a perfect start.

The 28-year-old has managed to pick up at least one point in 19 of the 23 contests he’s suited up in this season. Yeah, he’s been that good. It sure looks like the seven-year, $81.5 million contract they handed him will be money well spent.

“I thought he was going to be impactful, it’s been better than I envisioned,” head coach David Quinn told the New York Post this week. “Not just because of what we’ve seen on the ice but, I’ve talked about this before, what he brings away from the rink. His personality and how much he loves the game. He’s a great example for our young players.”

The 28-year-old’s outstanding play doesn’t have the Rangers in a playoff spot heading into today’s matinee against the Boston Bruins, but they are in the middle of a positive stretch right now. The Rangers have won three games in a row and four of their last five. They’re currently four points behind the Flyers, who own the final Wild Card spot in the East (New York has two games in hand).

If they find a way to get into the postseason, Panarin will have to be considered one of the front-runners for the Hart Trophy this year. There’s still a long way to go before that happens, but New York is within striking distance right now.

“He’s unreal,” defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “I think everybody is impressed with him, his skill set, the plays he makes, he plays both sides of the puck, too. Sometimes you just think a guy is all offense. I don’t know if you guys saw, but [Monday] night he had a huge backcheck in the game, too. There was a two-on-one and he backchecked and took two guys out of the play. And then we went on the attack. He’s been really impressive and been great for us so far.”

The Rangers are about to embark on an important stretch of games. Starting today, they’ll play seven of their next nine away from Madison Square Garden. That includes a four-game road trip through Vegas, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim next month.

If Panarin can help them survive this next stretch of games, they’ll be in decent shape heading into the new year.

NBC Sports brings NHL Live on the road for Friday’s Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC, with Kathryn Tappen hosting studio coverage on-site from TD Garden alongside analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury. Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will call the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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