The Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t have possibly predicted Artemi Panarin’s emergence as a bona fide star during his rookie season in the NHL, but there was at least one player on the St. Louis Blues that forecasted his impact.
That player is fellow Russian Vladimir Tarasenko, who apparently harangued the Blues about bringing Panarin into the organization. That obviously didn’t pan out, but the Russian winger is pleased that things worked out for his friend anyway.
“I can’t be happy for him as a Blackhawk, but I’m happy for him as a friend,” Tarasenko told the media before Friday’s Game 2.
Panarin and Tarasenko were teammates for a brief time with St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL, but they have played together in junior tournaments and will both represent their country at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, which will take place this September in Toronto.
Their connection has left Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock lamenting what could have been if Panarin had been brought aboard by the organization.
“He (Tarasenko) told us the day he got here about him (Panarin),” Hitchcock said. “He told us at least once a month about him. They’re best buds. He talked about him and everyone said ‘he’s a pretty small guy.’ We all look a little dumb right now.”
Although the team didn’t listen to Tarasenko when it mattered, Hitchcock does seem to think that the forward could have a future in a different capacity after he’s done playing the game.
“Instead of giving him $8 million we should have hired him as a scout,” he said with a laugh.