Rookies making an impressive early impactOctober 19, 2016, by
The Rangers’ 2016-2017 season is still in its infancy, but already positive signs abound for the vaunted rookie class. All of Jimmy Vesey, Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei have looked very strong in the early going and they’ve quickly emerged as key contributors to a team in transition.
Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a tremendous shock. These aren’t your typical rookies, who are often lanky teenagers from Canadian junior hockey that wow in camp but are still a ways away from growing into their bodies and recognizing their potential.
Each of the Rangers’ rookies reached New York under unique circumstances, but prior to this season one thing they all had in common is that they’d established themselves against adult-level competition.
Skjei honed his skills in Hartford last season and ultimately played five playoff games with the Blueshirts after a late season call-up. Following the season, Skjei drew rave reviews for his performance in the World Championships.
Vesey is already 23 years old and played four years of collegiate hockey against high-level competition, emerging as a team leader as an upperclassman.
And Buchnevich spent an additional season in the KHL beyond what the Blueshirts thought he needed to build confidence and ensure he was ready for a full-time job on Broadway before crossing the Atlantic.
The rookies have made a handful of mistakes in the early going and that will undoubtedly continue. But each has also displayed an impressive skill set and, more importantly, they’ve all looked comfortable and confident at this level.
Skjei drew criticism for a poor camp and preseason, but so far he looks much more like the player that was inserted seamlessly into the lineup last spring. Skjei has been unafraid to use his legs and carry the puck up ice, while also utilizing his size and reach in his own zone.
And whereas many 6-3 rookies need a couple hard offseasons to fill out, Vesey has already packed on muscle and looks well-equipped for the physical play of the NHL in the dirty areas. Vesey has displayed an extremely mature style of play from the get-go and looks like a pest/power forward in the making.
Finally, Buchnevich has settled into a top-line role alongside Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider – a trio that found instant chemistry when they were united at training camp. Buchnevich needs to be a little more decisive and harder on the puck in his own zone, but his creativity and playmaking ability has been evident from the start. He has also made an early impact on the power play, where he’s demonstrated terrific poise with the puck.
It won’t all be roses and sunshine for the Rangers’ newbies as the season becomes a grind, but this trio looks more than capable of weathering the ups and downs of NHL hockey as their freshman year takes shape."Rookies making an impressive early impact",