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Can Artem Anisimov turn his hot start into a career year?

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There’s more to Artem Anisimov’s hot start than the high shooting percentage.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Chicago Blackhawks David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks extended their win streak to six games Sunday, and surprise surprise, Artem Anisimov’s name was once again in the box score. Tallying a goal and an assist in the game, Anisimov extended his point streak to an insane 11 games and is already up to league-leading 17 points on the season.

However, this is also the same player who centered Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane last year but was only able to post 42 points. So how much can Anisimov keep this up going forward?

Back when Anisimov was still just a prospect, the young forward had plenty of offensive skill and potential. Participating in four major international tournaments and ranked as the sixth-best European skater in his draft, the Rangers selected Anisimov in the second round in hopes of him becoming a top-six center. After staying in Russia for another year, Anisimov headed to North America, where he was the leading rookie scorer for the Hartford Wolf Pack. In the 2008-09 season, Anisimov scored over a point-per-game with 81 points in 80 games.

However, things were a bit different in the NHL as Anisimov never seemed to find his offensive stride. His rookie year with the Rangers saw him only score 28 points, and while he would go on to score 44 points in his sophomore campaign, he would never hit that mark again. Since tallying 44 points in 2010, the only other year he surpassed the 40-point mark was 2015-16.

Now 10 games into the 2016-17 season, Anisimov has by far surpassed expectations. Scoring eight goals and nine assists, Anisimov leads the NHL in points and is tied for the lead in goals. Receiving more ice time than ever, the 28-year-old is on track for a career-year.

Last season saw Anisimov score only 42 points in 77 games despite centering arguably the best line in the NHL. Kane and Panarin both finished in the top 10 in scoring and were some of the best players in the league. Spending over 70 percent of his 5v5 ice time on a line with those two, one would think that Anisimov would do his best centering that line.

However, it might be better for Anisimov to spend some more time away from the duo, as Kane and Panarin may take most of the available points away from him. Supporting this theory is the fact that last year, Anisimov had his lowest even strength IPP% in his career at only 52.2 percent. Here are 5-on-5 stats from stats.hockeyanalysis.com:

Year Team GP Goals Assists IPP%
2012-13 Blue Jackets 35 9 6 93.8%
2013-14 Blue Jackets 81 17 13 81.1%
2014-15 Blue Jackets 52 6 12 75.0%
2015-16 Blackhawks 77 10 14 52.2%
2016-17 Blackhawks 13 3 4 70.0%

For those that don’t know, IPP refers to the percentage of points earned on goals scored with the player on the ice. While playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Anisimov consistently enjoyed an IPP over 70 percent and even recorded a 93.8 percent IPP% in the 2012-13 season.

In his first year in Chicago with Kane and Panarin, however, Anisimov’s IPP drastically fell. A drop like this would definitely prevent Anisimov from scoring a lot and may have to due with the fact that there just might not have been enough scoring to go around on that line last year.

Over the past few years, there have only been a select few 100-point scorers in the NHL. In the 2013-14 NHL season, Sidney Crosby tallied 104 points with his most common linemates being Chris Kunitz and Pascal Duspuis. While Chris Kunitz scored 68 points in 78 games, Duspuis only scored at a 42-point pace. And in the 2010-11 season, Daniel and Henrik Sedin had 104 and 94 points respectively while their most common linemate, Alex Burrows, only scored 48 points in 72 games (Burrows’ numbers are a bit high but this was six years ago when top-six scorers’ numbers were generally higher).

While none of these examples are perfect, they do show that it’s hard to have three insanely productive guys all on one line. While it’s common to have two superstars on the same line there aren’t many examples of three consistently on the same line. Some time away from either one of Kane or Panarin could do Anisimov some good and the early returns are promising.

However, there is one major concern with Anisimov’s point total: his scoring rate. He’s already up to eight goals in 13 games but there’s no way he can sustain that sort of pace, especially considering his shooting percentage is 33.3 percent right now. Anismov’s shot rate is only slight up this year (1.85 in 2016-17 vs. 1.57 in 2015-16) and his shooting percentage is much more likely to fall around the 14-16 percent range, giving him around 24 goals by the end of the year. If Anisimov had only scored at a 24-goal pace through his first 11 games instead of the 52-goal pace he’s scoring at now, Anisimov would only have three goals and 10 points.

Anisimov is unlikely to sustain his current goal-scoring pace but his assist numbers do look promising for this year. He won’t be able to sustain a scoring pace over a point-per-game but this may finally be the season where Anisimov puts it all together.