Chicago Blackhawks star rookie forward Artemi Panarin said during the team's end-of-season press conference he'll play for his native Russia at the 2016 World Championships. The tournament will take place from May 6 through May 22 in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The Russian Federation has not made its official roster announcement.
Panarin, 24, took the NHL by storm this season, scoring 30 goals and 77 points during 80 games. He added two goals and five assists in seven playoff games.
Panarin scored five goals with five assists during the 2015 Worlds to lead Russia to the gold-medal game against Canada, where the Russians fell 1-0. He previously won gold at the 2011 World Junior Championships. The Korkino, Russia native also will represent Russia at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey alongside teammate Artem Anisimov.
Chicago acquired Panarin in April 2015 on a free agent deal. Panarin previously played for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL in 2013 and became an All-Star the following season, leading the team in scoring -- ahead of Ilya Kovalchuk -- with 26 goals and 62 points in 54 games. He added 20 points in 20 playoff games during SKA's Gagarin Cup championship run.