New York Rangers Buchnevich Even Better Than Expected


New York Rangers Prospect, Pavel Buchnevich and What he Brings to the Table

Pavel Buchnevich, the young Russian sniper/playmaker who most recently laced up for the SKA Ice Hockey Club of St. Petersburg, Russia, may be an even better prospect than any New York Ranger fan has dared to hope. Considering that he is already thought by most within the New York Rangers organization to be their best offensive prospect, his arrival in New York cannot come soon enough.

Diminishing the hype and hope surrounding Buchnevich, listed as a LW but with the ability to handle Center as well, is the reality that he is somewhat undersized. He is not height-challenged by NHL standards, coming in at an even 6 ft., but his weight, currently listed on the SKA website as roughly 176 pounds, is somewhat of a concern.

Dec 22, 2015; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks during the overtime period at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers defeated the Ducks 3-2 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello /

Height and weight are relative variables by which to judge a player, no doubt, as evidenced by the fact that New York Ranger Mats Zuccarello relies on his 5’7″, 179 lb. frame to great effect both on the perimeter and along the boards, but size, specifically weight, can and does become an issue for players that do not count physicality amongst their attributes. Such is the case with Buchnevich.

That said, there is every reason to have faith that Buchnevich’s skill set will translate should he decide to come to North America in the near future. In fact, he is so highly thought of by the VP of the SKA team, Roman Rothenberg, that Rothenberg was recently quoted in Sov Sport as saying that Buchnevich and another young Russian talent  “are the future of the entire Russian Hockey and SKA St. Petersburg” programs. High praise indeed.

So, if it is to be believed that his skill set will translate to the North American game, it is important to note the skills that are actually being referred to.

Buchnevich’s Skill Set

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As with any prospect in the modern NHL, speed is the essential ingredient. Teams build around speed, with their forwards and d-men alike, and the New York Rangers are no different. Recent history tells us that Head Coach Alain Vigneault prefers and emphasizes an up-tempo pace, and though this preference did not  manifest itself consistently enough during this past season, with the team looking sluggish and relying too heavily on the stretch pass as its primary offensive strategy – another reason among many why Keith Yandle should not be brought back – we can expect the 2016-2017 team to at least attempt a return to this approach. Buchnevich provides that speed in abundance, so we can check that box with confidence.

With Buchnevich, however, the Rangers would have not only a speedy player but, based on evaluations such as the one provided by Hockey’ s prospects/pavel-buchnevich/, they would also be bringing aboard a skilled playmaker with plus hands and plus vision. Of the deficiencies associated with the Rangers over the past several seasons, collectively it has been in the area of touch scorers that they have been behind the curve.

Feb 10, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) during their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Rangers beat the Maple Leafs 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider /

Chris Kreider, for example, one of the fastest men in the world on skates, often struggles to bury the most prime opportunities due to a pair of hands that might be better utilized hauling bricks. Kreider improved as this past season wore on, gaining traction with roughly 20 or so games to go in the season, however if he is to reach his 30-40 goal per year potential he needs to resolve this issue to whatever extent is possible. But we digress.

As for Buchnevich’s production in the KHL this past season, he put up a total of 37 points in 58 games with two separate teams. Not superstar numbers, it would appear, but it should be noted that his ice time with SKA averaged just 12:16 over 18 games, during which he tallied 8 total points (4G, 4A). While his ice time with Cherepovets could not be confirmed, it is important to note that his total of 29 points in 40 games with the team was surpassed by just one other player on the roster over 42 total games. So, prior to the transition to SKA, a more powerful team in a much larger market, Buchnevich was clearly a centerpiece of the offense for Cherepovets at just 21 years of age.

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There is no way to be certain what to expect from Buchnevich should he decide to sign with the New York Rangers this year or at some point in the future. There have been more busts in hockey, and all of sports, than there have been superstars. If other Rangers prospects such as speedy power-forward Ryan Gropp (6’2″ LW) and highly touted sniper Niklas Jensen (6’3″ LW) deliver on expectations, however, the burden of expectations will be  lessened for the talented Russian. Add in an already above average – and for the most part young – group of forwards already on the Rangers NHL roster, some of whom have yet to reach their full potential, and perhaps the commonly held belief that the Rangers’ cupboard is bare will be disproved. Time will tell.