A Russian invasion has happened within the Chicago Blackhawks organization. No, it’s not like the Cold War threats of the past (although I wasn’t alive then and am only speaking from what history books tell me), but the Chicago Blackhawks’ roster has been infused with some Russian flair.
Stan Bowman and the rest of the Blackhawks’ front office have brought three Russian players into the fold for the 2015-16 season. Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin and Viktor Tikhonov make up the Russian flavor that will grace the Blackhawks’ starting roster next season.
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Anisimov, a center, was a part of the Brandon Saad trade that still stings for many fans. By the time this coming season is over, Blackhawks fans will be happy to have Anisimov. This is a guy that is the second-line center the Blackhawks have been looking for in recent years. Having him play alongside Patrick Kane will only allow him to show off his offensive game while continuing to be a very sound defensive player who is good at faceoffs.
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Bringing him in also will help the transition for Panarin, a 23-year-old forward who is shifting from the KHL to the NHL. Panarin will be able to play with a fellow countryman in Anisimov, who can relate to him and help him adjust to the NHL game.
Tikhonov is the most recent of the three to join the Blackhawks, on a one-year deal for around $1 million. Tikhonov was voted the best forward at the 2014 World Championships when Russia took home gold. The 27-year-old was drafted 28th overall in 2008 by the Phoenix Coyotes, scoring eight goals and adding eight assists for them in 61 games that year before being reassigned to their AHL team, the San Antonio Rampage.
He is also a former linemate of Panarin (for the KHL’s SKA Saint Petersburg), which will help the two fit in with the Blackhawks’ locker room. Tikhonov doesn’t have the potential that Panarin has, especially being four years older, but can provide great depth for the bottom-six forward grouping for the Blackhawks, who are in a bit of a cap crunch as it is.
Panarin and Anisimov fit the profile as guys who will be playing on the second line with Kane. That is under the assumption the Blackhawks can move some salary, whether that’s in the form of Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Kris Versteeg or some combination of the three. Anisimov will be the second-line center that Kane has been looking for, for a long time. Panarin provides him another skillful player to play alongside and score goals with. The Blackhawks might have finally put together a second line that can stay together and not need to be dragged around by Kaner all season long.
The Russians are here to stay, and the three will find themselves in key roles for the Blackhawks next season. For the Blackhawks to repeat as champions, these three Russians will have to play big-time hockey, and their track records show that they will do just that.
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