Prospect Impressions: Panarin, Eichel shine at IIHF Worlds, more highlights from the OHL, AHL

By David Hahn
Artemi Panarin - Team Russia - 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship

Photo: Former SKA St. Petersburg forward and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Artemi Panarin signed his first NHL contract fresh off winning the 2015 Gagarin Cup, the KHL’s championship trophy (courtesy of Matej Divizna/Getty Images)



Artemi Panarin, the newest Chicago Blackhawk appears ready for the NHL, but before he gets there, an appearance at the 2015 IIHF World Championship is on tap. Likewise, top prospect Jack Eichel is playing in the tournament, and performing well at that. The human highlight reel strikes again for the Erie Otters, as Connor McDavid creates another present for the hockey world. The Washington Capitals are headed to Game Seven soon, but they wouldn’t have made it there if not for McDavid’s former teammate in Erie, Andre Burakovsky. The Los Angeles Kings may not have made the playoffs this year, but their AHL team is in the midst of a nice run towards the Calder Cup thanks in part to two of the Kings’ prospects.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a long playoff run, but a secret weapon with a championship of his own is waiting in the wings. Meet Artemi Panarin, one of the KHL’s leading scorers and recent Gagarin Cup champion. With SKA St. Petersburg, Panarin scored 26 times and assisted on 36 more to finish tied for fourth in KHL scoring. That success carried over to the playoffs, where Panarin added another 20 points in 20 games, on the way to winning his first KHL championship. He signed a contract with Chicago at the end of April, where Panarin is expected to contribute right away. With skills like these, the only question remaining is if Panarin can translate his abilities to the North American game.

Enjoying success in the NCAA is one thing, but performing at a high level at the 2015 IIHF World Championship might be a precursor to success in the NHL. Eichel is not only garnering attention off the ice from numerous scouting outlets and the Buffalo Sabres, but he’s drawing defenders on the ice as well. Eichel has been slippery over the course of the tournament, as referenced by his play to draw defenders to his side, before moving the puck over to the New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson for a goal. Later on in the tournament, Eichel would return the favor by stealing a hat-trick right out from under Nelson, deflecting a puck that was already destined for the net, tallying his first goal of the tournament.

At this point, it’s fair to assume that Connor McDavid had an off night if he doesn’t produce a highlight-reel goal. In this instance, McDavid setup Dallas Stars‘ prospect Remi Elie with another incredible rush where he beat every opponent on his way to the net. It’s become a common sight, but against the powerhouse Oshawa Generals, it’s happening less frequently. That was the only goal of the night for the Otters, who dropped Game One by a final score of 4-1.

Not to be outdone by former linemate McDavid, Andre Burakovsky rebounded from a stretch of play where he was a healthy scratch to score the only two Capitals goals in a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers in Game Four last week. Facing childhood hero Henrik Lundqvist, Burakovsky tallied twice, his first NHL playoff goals, following a 22-point regular season with the Capitals.

Los Angeles Kings prospect Zach O’Brien had just about enough of overtime, ending Game One against the Wilkes-Barrie Scranton Penguins in the third extra frame. Twice named as the QMJHL‘s Most Sportsmanlike Player, O’Brien unloaded on a slapshot that found its way past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray. He picked a pretty good time to score his first AHL playoff goal, after a 32-point regular season.

In Game Two of their series, the Manchester Monarchs clearly weren’t interested in any extra time, as an unlikely suspect played hero. Standing at 6’7″ and 230 pounds, Justin Auger is known for his physical presence and ability to maintain possession of the puck. However, even a big guy can turn in a spectacular play once in awhile, and that’s precisely what the hulking winger did. This goal helped put Manchester ahead two games to none.

Stay tuned for more Prospect Impressions next week!

Follow Dave Hahn on Twitter via @DHahnHockey