Panarin had another impressive campaign in his second NHL season in 2016-17, racking up 74 points (31 goals, 43 assists) and 211 shots on goal in 82 games. The Bread Man flourished while skating on Patrick Kane’s line during his two-season stay with the Blackhawks, but it remains to be seen whether he'll be similarly productive with his new club. Columbus certainly doesn't lack talent up front, but Panarin had a special level of chemistry with Kane that won't be easily replicated in his new digs. Nonetheless, the 25-year-old Russian is an undeniably skilled forward, and it would hardly be surprising to see him improve on his offensive totals from a season ago. Panarin’s ceiling may not be as high as it would've been had he been slated to spend another season skating on Kane’s opposite wing, but there’s hardly any risk involved with selecting him in this year’s fantasy drafts, so owners shouldn't hesitate to snatch him up with one of their first three selections.
There were questions about how well and how quickly Panarin would adjust to North American hockey prior to his first NHL season in 2015-16. The 24-year-old winger quickly laid doubts to rest during his rookie campaign, bursting onto the scene to the tune of 30 goals and 47 assists over 80 games, a performance that led to the Calder Memorial Trophy for top rookie. Skating on a line with Patrick Kane certainly aided the winger's transition, but Panarin deserves a ton of credit in his own right, as few have been able to seamlessly transition from the wide-open style played in the KHL to the physically-challenging NHL game with the level of success Panarin enjoyed last season. There's no reason to suspect Panarin won't be able to match the near point-per-game pace he reached last season, as he'll once again be skating on a line with Kane and Artem Anisimov in 2016-17, and will return as a key member of the 'Hawks deadly top power-play unit. Fantasy owners shouldn't hesitate to snag the Blackhawks' newest offensive powerhouse at some point in the first few rounds of this year's drafts.
Panarin is a skilled winger with good hockey smarts. However, all he has known is Russian hockey in the KHL, where the rinks are wider and there aren’t as many teams to compete against. Playing for the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks figures to be an ideal scenario for Panarin, as the team has plenty of depth on the left wing including the likes of Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell, a pair that could shadow Panarin and help him adjust to American hockey. Last season, with St. Petersburg SKA (KHL), he lit the lamp 26 times and had 36 assists to boot. His playing time with the Blackhawks will largely be decided by how quickly he can adjust to a new environment, but the 23-year-old has significant upside in keeper leagues, and also deeper redraft leagues if he makes a positive impression in camp.