Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov posted career-high points last season, but the ‘Hawks will need the injury-prone veteran to stay healthy throughout the 2017-18 campaign
Since coming to the Chicago Blackhawks from Columbus after the ‘Hawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup championship run, Artem Anisimov has brilliantly filled their crucial second line center position, posting a career-high 45 points last season while helping wingers Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin generate their own spectacular seasons.
But Anisimov missed 18 games last season due to injury and performed poorly in the four-game playoff loss to Nashville, leaving some fans wondering why general manager Stan Bowman didn’t move Anisimov and his $4.55 million cap hit off the books this summer. I’ll refer those critics back to paragraph one, above.
With less than six weeks to go until opening night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, we’re continuing Blackhawk Up’s annual projections of key Blackhawks players’ goals, assists and points next season based on three-year trends, career averages and potential linemates. Here’s the over/under projection for Anisimov.
Last three regular-season statistics
- 2014-15: 52 games, 7 goals, 20 assists, 27 points, minus-6 rating.
- 2015-16: 77 games, 20 goals, 22 assists, 42 points, plus-8 rating.
- 2016-17: 64 games, 22 goals, 23 assists, 45 points, plus-9 rating.
Career average (8 years): 69 games, 16 goals, 19 assists, 35 points, plus-16 rating.
- Kane, Patrick Sharp, Nick Schmaltz — Probable
- Brandon Saad, Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman — Possible
- Alex DeBrincat, Tommy Wingels, Tomas Jurco — Outside shot.
Projection: 20 goals, 23 assists, 43 points
Anisimov has a knack for getting to the net and the skill to dominate play around a crowded crease. Sometimes adding a dash of magical stick work, he scored virtually all his 22 goals last season, including seven game-winners, from within 20 feet of the net. A great example is this amazing goal in the ‘Hawks’ 3-0 win over the KIngs last Oct. 30.
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Anisimov posted a career-high shooting percentage of 21 percent last season, tops among all NHL centers with at least 60 games. It’s unlikely Anisimov will shoot that well again in 2017-18. Still, I see him tallying 20 goals off 124 shots and his 16 percent cumulative shooting average over the past three years.
Anisimov excels as a centerman with his singular ability to protect the puck and then get it to a wing in scoring position. Cynical observers might view him as simply the lucky partner of superstar wingers, but he’s really the master playmaker who helped Kane and Panarin achieve, respectively, league MVP and top rookie honors in the 2015-16 campaign. Artie will continue to drive production on his line in 2017-18, so look for him to pitch-in 23 helpers this season.
A couple concerns
Anisimov has been hounded by injuries throughout his career, and he’s missed 23 of 164 regular season games since joining the Blackhawks, including the final 13 games last season with an injured left leg. After a red-hot start last year where he posted 27 points in 32 games, including an eleven-game point streak, Anisimov suffered an upper body injury in mid-December after which his production tailed off to 18 points over his last 32 appearances. Artie’s health and physical conditioning will be a major question mark at the start of training camp.
Anisimov has underperformed in the faceoff circle throughout his career, and finished last season with an unimpressive 45 percent mark at the dot. In the four-game playoff series against Nashville, Anisimov lost 71 percent of his draws, failed to produce any offense, and couldn’t muster an effective defense against the Preds. Faceoffs will continue to be Anisimov’s only major shortfall on the ice this season.
Writer prediction: Over
Centering a line with players like Kane, Sharp, Saad or any other high-end Blackhawks winger, Anisimov should easily surpass his career averages. If he can stay healthy and play close to a full 82-game season, Anisimov could exceed 50 points for the first time in his career.
Throw in Anisimov’s often overlooked skill as a two-way player who’s deceptively quick on the backcheck, and the talented 29-year-old centerman could generate the kind of supercharged excitement usually reserved for his linemates. Hoisting the Stanley Cup at the end would certainly help.