Rookies making an impressive early impact

October 19, 2016, by
Buchnevich's extra time in the KHL looks like it's paying dividends

Buchnevich’s extra time in the KHL looks like it’s paying dividends

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", 5 out of 5 based on 15 ratings.


  1. Craig says:

    Good article Kevin:
    If these guys are good now, they can only get better as the year progresses. It’s early yet, but if we tighten up our defense a bit (which is not impossible), this Ranger team can really go far. The offence has compensated the loss of the great puck moving Yandle (who wasn’t that good on D), which I had believed would happened as the team adjusted and added speed. Last year 100 points with a slower team and Hank carrying us a good part of the way. What are the potential points this year if they remain fairly healthy? Nash is looking good to boot!

    • Hatrick Swayze says:

      “If these guys are good now, they can only get better as the year progresses”

      As much as I hate to mention this, unfortunately that is not always the case, as Petr Prucha proved. Petr was 3rd in goals scored by Christmas of his rookie year only to work his way out of the league a short while later.

      Don’t think this will be the case for the three guys we’re talking about here, but it’s always fun to reminisce, right? Even when the story doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending.

      • Jerry says:

        On the money Hat.
        Three games in does not make a season.

      • Mikeyyy says:

        Let’s hope he is petr prucha one of only 6 rookies since 2008 to score 30 their first season.

        Let’s hope av doesn’t pull a renney and totally destroy this kid.

        You might also note that prucha had a severe knee injury around all star break which totally ruined him forcing him to retire years later.

        If that’s what you consider work your way out.

        • Hatrick Swayze says:

          Renney didn’t destroy Prucha. It was more a product of the fact Jagr wasn’t going to carry Prucha his entire career. That’s what got Prucha 30 goals and set expectations way too high for him from the jump. Injuries never help either.

          • Dave says:

            This is true. Also the addition of Shanny bumped Prucha off the PP, which killed his production.

          • Mikeyyy says:

            I would respectfully disagree. Nothing hurts your point totals like getting bumped from a line with Jagr to the 4th line and losing your pp time.

            Then blowing your knee out when skating is your game.

            It’s like expecting 30 goals from Jesper fast. While keeping him in his current spots.

            Renney was a trainwreck.

  2. Walt says:

    The future looks very promising with this trio of kids playing for us!!!!!!!

    I’d like to see some action to get the defense in order, but that may take more time unfortunately !!!!!!!!!!!

    I meant to post yesterday on the prospects not in the AHL. I’m a fan of Day, and would love for this kid to develop into a top flight NHL defenseman. The kid has a big frame, and is super fast, can’t wait for him to start wearing the Ranger blue !!!!!!!

    • Reenavipul says:

      With Windsor he’ll get deep runs in the playoffs & the Memorial Cup, great opportunity for his development.

  3. Peter says:

    I am happy that these young players are getting a shot to log a lot of minutes. Sure they will make mistakes; that comes with the territory when you are playing rookies. But all three are talented and I believe will learn quickly by playing with the big boys.

    • Stranger Nation says:

      Current roster has only 8 of 22 born in the 80’s including 4 of 8 on D. If Haze and Miller continue to up their games, the sky is the limit.

  4. SalMerc says:

    Any good team needs a few rookies to break through so the vets get pushed and the Cap gets some relief. Let’s hope this group continues to push the vets and maybe makes them available at the trade deadline so a better defenseman can be added to the backline. If we continue to develop young guys who can slot into the top 6, these guys can seed the organization for a long time to come. Good drafting and holding on to your top picks will do this.

    Hopefully we have 3 more guys who can step into top 6 roles next year.

  5. Richter1994 says:

    If the D gets transformed like the O was then we will have an elite team and annual Cup contender.

    I apologize to the writers and the posters of this blog if I contributed to the angst caused recently. I use the word “hate” (as in coach) but it’s not meant to be a personal attack inasmuch his decision making in his role as Ranger head coach. I will try to word my posts more eloquently and less inflammatory.

    Thank you for this opportunity to talk Ranger hockey and keep up the good work.

    • Pas44 says:


    • Swarty says:


    • Dave says:

      I read an interesting piece from Pronman – forwards drive possession more than defensemen. I thought it would be the reverse, which drove my doubts for this season.

      I’m certainly intrigued by this team this year.

      • Richter1994 says:

        The last 2 years the Rangers’ D was exposed even more since the Rangers scored (approx) 35% of their goals on transition as opposed to possession. This was further illustrated by the Rangers being towards the bottom in 2nd chance scoring opportunities, meaning that the forwards were not “creating” goals but rather getting the “one shot” goal.

        So in reference to what you’re saying is that the goal of the D men is just to get the puck out of the zone by getting the puck to the forwards with forward skating momentum as opposed to just chipping it out of the zone, which the Rangers did numerous times last year.

        Makes sense.

        • Richter1994 says:

          I would still like that righty top pair D man for McD.

        • Dave says:

          My thought process was that the D wasn’t getting enough controlled zone exits so the Fs couldn’t gain the OZ with speed.

          Glad I was wrong.

  6. Pas44 says:

    Hats off to Gordon, the moves are looking stella!

    Rumors building with the Ducks

    Rantaa looking splendid, did his job well Monday!

    Dare I say I am totally psyched 3 games in?

    • Peter says:

      I know Hank likes to work, but I’ve advocated letting Raanta carry more of the load for a while. While not one of the rookies he is a talented young goaltender who would benefit from a more steady work schedule. Keeping Hank fresh can only help at the end of the year.

      Looking at the roster these days, it is evident that the Rangers do have a good number of talented young players and Gorton has done a good job in acquirig a few more. I think he will keep adding young people.

    • Walt says:

      agree on most of the post, would like to see defensive help before I’m totally psyched though !!!

      • Chris A says:

        It’s coming Walt. Blue Line help is on the way, it’s just likely not until next season. I think we’re just going to have to cringe our way through a bunch of 7-4 games this season.

      • Pas44 says:

        For Sure…

        not to quote a song, but theres “something in the way” he moves that just makes me feel Gordon is going to get some D done soon.

    • Richter1994 says:

      Raanta is a perfect back up. He loves being here and plays well when called upon. He was pretty much left out to dry in the 3rd period.

  7. Chris72 says:

    After years of watching tightly played games, I have to admit, the offensive output is fun to watch. I realize it’s incredibly hard to sustain that type of fire power but if Gorton, AV and Beuk can push the right buttons defensively and right the wrongs, a balanced offensive attack with a legitimate NHL powerhouse first line and (hopefully) a slightly above average defense can get us to the playoffs. It would be an unfamiliar route but a possible route all the same. I like to assess after 18-20 games but so far an exciting team to watch. LGR

    • Richter1994 says:

      The offense is great as long as they keep it up but defending is the key to winning in the long run and in the playoffs.

      And it won’t take much, just adding one much better righty D man will help a lot.

      • Reenavipul says:

        Vatanen is not that defenseman

        • Pootie Tang Jr. says:

          Vatanen is a good dman, would be an improvement over anyone on the right side that NYR has. Additionally he’s much better than Cam Fowler–is Anaheim really shopping Vatanen? Figured he’d be someone they want to hold onto…

        • Richter1994 says:

          actually he is but I think he’s lefty and he’s not “Lindholm” good. Rangers need a righty badly IMO.

        • Dave says:

          Vatanen, if brought in, would be the instant 1RD playing with McDonagh. Granted, that doesn’t mean much considering the current state of the RD, but he is by far an improvement on anyone the team currently has.

          • Reenavipul says:

            1st pair on a team that can’t get out of the 1st round(and from last night, their own end) Too small for playoff hockey.


    • Chris A says:

      Chris72 – That’s basically the Penguins model. They lean on Letang to compensate for an awful D corps. No reason the Rangers cannot lean on McD and Hank and hope the offense keeps pummeling the opposition.

      • Peter says:

        Sort of like a 1990’s Western Conference team? Fly down the ice and score, and hope the other team doesn’t return the favor! 😊

  8. Stranger Nation says:

    Through the first 3 games, NYR has outchanced the opponent by a significant margin. Teams will adjust once they can better scout NYR will will help NYR D as the opponent will need to support their D and alleviate pressure on NYR D.
    The offense is clicking with very impressive Ozone short passing game leading to Grade A scoring chances esp Zika, Kreider, Butch.
    Am I the only fan concerned that Butch has a bad back 2 games in?

    • joe from newburgh says:

      No, you’re not the only fan concerned about that, but don’t jump off the cliff yet. It may be nothing, and, even if is a major problem, although it would be terrible for him, it’s not as if he’s become an indispensable part of the team already.

    • Dave says:

      I’d only be concerned if it keeps him out long term. He’s young, he should heal quickly. Unlike me and my wonky back, which takes months to heal.

      • Stranger Nation says:

        agree – back’s can be tricky things and his lack of heft doesn’t help. Hopefully more preventive maintenance than corrective.