It doesn't hurt to have a world-class player like Patrick Kane - however you might feel about him - on your line, but Panarin was no slouch in his first year of action at the game's highest level either.
Kane ran away with the team and league scoring title with 46 goals and 106 points, but "The Bread Man" wasn't far behind, leading all rookies with 30 goals and 77 points for a near point-per-game pace over 80 games. Granted, who knows how the rookie point scoring race would've ended with a healthy Connor McDavid, yet Panarin proved dangerously consistent as one of the best players on the ice night in and night out.
If there could be any flaw found in Panarin's game, it would have more to do with how Coach Q used him - and I don't think anyone would call it a flaw. The Blackhawks' newest star rarely saw time in the defensive end, starting 76.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone. It makes sense, the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line was never designed to be a premier shutdown line, particularly when captain Jonathan Toews is so effective in that role. No, whenever he was on the ice, odds were good Panarin's team had the puck, as he posted season Corsi and Fenwick percentages of 53 and 51.7, respectively.
As anyone can see, it was a pretty good regular season for the former KHL vet, and he took that momentum with him into the playoffs, scoring two goals, seven points and a plus-2 rating in seven games. His average ice-time saw a significant boost as well, rising from 18:31 in the regular season to 20:10. Take it with a grain of salt, however; Chicago loves overtime playoff hockey.
The Hawks loaded up for bear heading into the 2016 postseason, and crashed out in surprising fashion in the first round. Minus such names as Andrew Ladd, Andrew Shaw, Tuevo Teravainen and Trevor Daley, they'll look to regain form, which means they'll need as good of a campaign or more from Panarin in a second season infamously known as the dreaded "sophomore slump". Fortunately for Chicago, less so for the rest of the teams in the league's toughest division, he's no 21-year-old fresh out of college or the Canadian major juniors. Instead, Panarin worked out the kinks during his first five seasons of professional hockey at home in the KHL, then scored a combined 46 goals and 102 points in 105 games between seasons six and seven before signing with the 2015 Stanley Cup winners.
He may have stepped up a league, but the 24-year-old played more like a seasoned All-Star than a rookie last year. This year, all eyes will be on him as he battles with the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeni Kuznetsov for the title of the NHL's next great Russian superstar. He'd probably settle for a Stanley Cup first, though.