CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 26: Patrick Kane

Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov notched career highs in 2016-17 season, but questions remain after late-season injury slows the ‘Hawks’ talented pivot man

Shortly after notching his career-high 45th point on Feb. 14 in Chicago’s 4-2 win over Montreal, Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov suffered a leg injury that kept him sidelined for the last 13 games of the regular season. Anisimov returned to action for the Blackhawks’ opening round playoff loss to Nashville, but was mostly invisible and failed to produce in the four-game whitewash.

Blackhawks fans are now focused on next week’s prospect camp, but we’re also looking back at each of the Blackhawks’ play last season. Here’s an assessment of Anisimov’s performance.

2016-17 regular season statistics: 64 games, 22 goals, 23 assists, 45 points, plus-9 rating, 49.4 percent Corsi-for (even strength), 45 percent faceoff wins.

2016-17 playoff statistics: 4 games, 0 points, minus-2 rating, 48.3 percent Corsi-for (even strength), 29 percent faceoff wins.

Positives

At six-feet, 4-inches and 198 pounds, Anisimov is a prototypical NHL centerman with surprising speed and agility, who is happy to get the puck to his wingers and let them do their thing. Take a look at his great assist on Patrick Kane’s goal on Feb. 14 against the Canadiens — Artie executes a quick buttonhook towards the boards, then dishes a perfect feed to Kaner who buries it for a 1-0 lead.

Anisimov scores most of his goals from point-blank range. He’s got a nose for the net with the physical power to dominate play around the crease. For a big man, he’s got great hands — check out the magical stickwork on his goal in the ‘Hawks’ 3-0 win over the Kings last Oct. 30. The Blackhawks need more players to follow Artie’s lead and get to the net. 

Anisimov is also an underrated two-way player, who can be lightning quick on the backcheck to lift a stick and kill a play in his own zone.

Negatives

Anisimov’s biggest shortfall is in the faceoff circle where he won just 45 percent of his draws last season, ranking third among ‘Hawks centermen. In the playoff series against Nashville, his performance at the dot was truly execrable, winning only 15 of 51 faceoffs (29 percent). For such a talented player, trouble at the dot remains a worrisome Achilles heel for Anisimov and the Blackhawks in general.

With just 53:55 minutes total time killing penalties last season, it’s not surprising that Anisimov ranked last among ‘Hawks centers in hits (18) and blocked shots (27).

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