Rangers’ scrutinized forward is off to an incredible start this season

New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) skates after a loose puck as Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jake Bean (22) trails the play during the third period at Nationwide Arena
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have just recently beaten the Arizona Coyotes in the third game of the 2023-24 season to improve to a record of 2-1. Ever since hiring head coach Peter Laviolette, there has been an overwhelming improvement from many of the Rangers’ players.

Artemi Panarin has seen the most improvement this season of anyone, as he has seemed to make a return to his former self. A new haircut and fresh confidence have helped Panarin get past his previous playoff struggles and become the ultimate version of himself. The was a high level of criticism being thrown at Panarin this offseason, but he appears to have proved his doubters wrong.

Panarin is currently averaging over a point per game for the Rangers

After three games played this season, Panarin has scored one goal and three assists for four points. He’s tied with Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox for the second-highest point total on the Rangers, only behind elite goal scorer Chris Kreider.

Averaging over a point per game is no new concept for Panarin. The only two seasons in his career where he didn’t was his first two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. And even then, he came extremely close. Panarin has been a consistent 90+ point scorer in all but one season since joining the Rangers. That one year where he only tallied 58 points was the shortened pandemic season, so it’d be unfair to count that.

This could be the season where Panarin finally reaches the 100-point mark. His closest attempt was in the 2021-22 season where he finished with 96- and he did so in only 75 games played. Panarin had to take a personal leave of absence that year and missed a huge chunk of the season, and it’s highly likely that he would’ve hit 100 points had he played the full 82 games.

Panarin’s confidence and overall play have drastically improved

After the Rangers were eliminated from the 2022-23 playoffs early on in the postseason, Panarin received a lot of criticism for his poor play. The star winger tallied two assists in game one and then disappeared from the ice for the remainder of the series. It was later revealed that his confidence had been shattered, and he needed to find a way to bounce back this season.

Over the summer, Panarin shocked the world when he revealed his new look. He shaved his head, claimed that his poor play was caused by evil that lurked in his hair and was apparently ready to get back to work with fresh confidence. Whether the existence of dark forces is true or not, something in Panarin certainly changed.

So far this season, Panarin has looked like an entirely different player. He’s skating faster, making elite takeaway plays, and shooting the puck with much more confidence at a higher rate. Panarin used to be a pass-first type of player, but now he’s become an elite goal-scoring playmaker. In three games played, Panarin leads the Rangers with 12 shots on goal. In terms of the bald head, it definitely made him more aerodynamic.

With all of the criticism Panarin received over the summer, it’s safe to say that he has returned to form. Only time will tell if he can maintain this new drive for the remainder of the season and hopefully into the playoffs.

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