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Chicago Blackhawks Grades: Artem Anisimov A Solid Addition

By Colin Likas
Apr 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) in action during game five of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 4-3 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) in action during game five of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 4-3 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /
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Artem Anisimov A Useful Piece For Blackhawks

We’ve made it through the lightest-loaded position with our Chicago Blackhawks end-of-the-season grades, having covered goaltenders Corey Crawford and Scott Darling in previous posts (both are at the bottom of this post). Michael Leighton will get his glance in a later post containing Blackhawks who were with the team for just a short time this season, but for now, we’ll move on to the Blackhawks forwards.

Let’s go alphabetically, shall we? That means the leadoff hitter is Artem Anisimov, who turned out to be the key piece in the offseason Brandon Saad trade. Marko Dano was later flipped to the Winnipeg Jets in the Andrew Ladd deal, Corey Tropp was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Tim Jackman (minor leaguer), and Jeremy Morin turned into Richard Panik. The latter of those three deals will probably wind up being the best one, but that’s not what you came here for.

Anisimov is the only remaining piece of the Saad deal, and it should stay that way for a while. Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman said at the time of the deal the Blackhawks had always been high on Anisimov. That became very obvious when he was immediately signed to a new deal through the 2019-2020 season, at a cap hit of $4.55 million starting next season.

Anisimov found instant chemistry with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, as those three comprised a line that would stay together most of the season. Though Anisimov went through a few more valleys than Panarin and Kane, he still made himself important right away, even if there was no way he was going to replace Saad.

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Apr 21, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov (15) and St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund (21) face-off during game five of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks won the game 4-3 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports /

2015-16 regular-season stats: 20 goals, 22 assists, plus-8 rating, 12 penalty minutes, 121 shots

2016 postseason stats: 3 goals, 0 assists, plus-1 rating, 2 penalty minutes, 14 shots

Positives

Centering a line featuring two guys who combined for 183 points, including the Art Ross Trophy winner and his 106 points, is always a positive. Anisimov had no problem using his size and smarts to his advantage, taking himself to the front of the net to cash in on rebounds, or suggesting seemingly little plays like Panarin losing a faceoff in the Blackhawks’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Blues, only to have him win a board battle and set up Anisimov for a goal.

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His countryman connection with Panarin shouldn’t be understated. Especially when Viktor Tikhonov was put on waivers and claimed by the Arizona Coyotes, Anisimov was the next man up as far as helping Panarin adapt on North American ice. That’s why Anisimov’s success or failure isn’t all in the statistics.

Another way you can tell if a guy is having success with the Blackhawks is his deployment. Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t always take to new players, sometimes giving them as few shifts as possible before they’re rarely ever seen again. This wasn’t the case with Anisimov, as he was utilized in all three styles of hockey — even-strength, powerplay and shorthanded. Only three Blackhawks had multiple powerplay and shorthanded goals this season: Jonathan Toews (6 PP, 4 SH), Marian Hossa (2 PP, 3 SH) and Anisimov (5 PP, 3 SH).

That’s something of a major bonus for the Blackhawks.

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Having a guy who was willing to not only pressure guys on the PK but also rush down the ice and try to convert a shorthanded goal is a nice boost to potential success. Being able to use that same guy on the powerplay and at even-strength is even better. Anisimov’s capabilities as a defensive forward made him usable in all zones and situations, a perfect fit for the Blackhawks’ longtime No. 2 center problem.

Negatives

The one big knock against Anisimov was his struggles at the faceoff dot. He wound up losing 154 more draws than he won while starting primarily in the offensive zone. Even with guys like Panarin and Kane alongside you — guys who can sneakily back-check and win that puck back in a heartbeat, this is obviously a problem.

I’m not sure if it’s a product of the 6-foot-4 Anisimov having trouble getting low to the ice or his technique just not being the most sound, but he needs to win more faceoffs in the future. Was he bad this season? Certainly not. But with the linemates he was often given, a higher winning percent would be appreciated.

Next: Luke Johnson's Signing Affects Nick Schmaltz

Grade: A-

I really can’t complain about much else regarding Anisimov. He was well-disciplined and a hard worker, and someone the Blackhawks truly needed to fill their No. 2 center position. He quietly had a fine first season in Chicago. Would it be nice to see him garner more points than the 42 he had this season? Absolutely. But with linemates like Kane and Panarin, who often just throw the puck between one another until it ends up in the net or gets sent the other way, you can’t exactly blame Anisimov for not breaking 60 points or something of that nature.

Of course, with his cap hit rising from about $3.2 million to $4.55 million moving forward, he’ll be looked at for increased production and perfection. Fans will start to pile on him if he goes through any struggles. Anisimov just needs to keep doing what he’s doing really (improving at the dot aside), and he should earn the paycheck just fine.

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