From the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson:
Rookie Chicago Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin racked up an impressive 77 points in his first kick at the National Hockey League this season, but the number people continue to look at is 24, as in birthdays.
It’s not the quiet Russian’s fault, but his birth certificate might be a gnawing concern come Calder Trophy voting time — he’s five years older than Connor McDavid. He also played 263 games over six years in the KHL, maybe the second best pro league in the world, while the Edmonton Oilers teenager sprang from the junior Erie Otters without missing a beat, save for the missed step when he lost his balance, plowed into the boards and broke his collarbone in early November.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, who will have McDavid on his Team North America Young Guns aggregation for the World Cup, waves the pompoms for the kid, of course, but he sees Panarin every day and loves him even if his $812,500 salary ballooned by $2.595 million because he achieved group A perks (60 points, 25 goals) for $850,000 and any one of his group B carrots for another $1.725 million (top 10 NHL forwards in points; he was eighth).
So next year, his cap hit will be $3.387 million, not $812,500, for a star-laden team in cap hell with 15 players signed for 2016-17 at $65.85 million.
“What a performance to do what Artemi did, as a first-year player … it’s always puzzled me why people look at that (bonus reached) as a bad thing,” said Bowman, keeper of the bulging purse in Chicago. “He came in and did something, if not unheard of, then certainly you haven’t seen a first-year player finish that high in points in a long while.”