Drew University Student Games and Posts for the New York Islanders

Nick Panarin C’23 parlayed a roster spot as an esports goalie into a social media internship

March 2022 – Lots of students play college sports with the dream of playing in the big leagues. Drew University student Nick Panarin C’23 is living out this dream, albeit in an unconventional way.

Panarin, a marketing major and Russian minor, landed an internship with the NHL’s New York Islanders Gaming Team thanks to his skills as a goalie. A video game goalie, that is.

The junior became one of the best goalies competitively playing the NHL video game, where every player controls a single player on the ice, playing in esports tournaments with prizes reaching into five figures.

His video game skills caught the eyes of Jordan Zelniker, lead of esports strategy for the New York Islanders, the first NHL team to sponsor an NHL esports team. Zelniker asked Panarin to sign on as the Islanders esports team’s backup goalie, and Panarin happily accepted.

But the story doesn’t end with a coveted spot on an NHL team’s esports roster.

Shortly after signing with the team, Zelniker learned Panarin was a marketing major and asked about his experience using Photoshop, Illustrator, and various Adobe products, and his experience with social media algorithms, as the IslesGT looked to bolster their esports team’s social media presence.

Being able to answer “yes” to those questions, thanks in large part to his digital marketing course that delved into social media marketing tools and terminology, Panarin landed himself an opportunity to work further with Isles Gaming Team.

“Creating our esports vertical is like any startup,” explained Zelniker, who oversees Panarin in his roles with the IslesGT. “We were looking for all hands on deck and innovative thought starters.”

Looking back at his path to this unique opportunity, Panarin noted a transformation made immediately upon entering The Forest.

“I’ve definitely turned from a B- student into an A student at Drew,” said Panarin, who has made the Dean’s List every semester at Drew.

The uptick in his academic performance that has translated directly into the real world.

“Nick joined the team with a proactive mindset looking to help in any way possible. We’ve seen him learn at a rapid pace and become a tremendous asset to the team, on and off the game,” said Zelniker.

Panarin jumped in with both feet and found a calling.

“This is exactly what I would love to do when I graduate,” said Panarin. “I see myself doing something like this in the future.”

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