Every few years, a prospect comes along that makes a fan base salivate. Of course, the expectations of fans are often unrealistic, and the success of supposed “top prospects” is never guaranteed (unless they’re in the category of say, Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid).
A few years ago, Pavel Buchnevich became that prospect for Rangers fans. Though he was just a third round pick, word spread quickly (along with plenty of impressive video highlights) that Buchnevich was the real deal. Sporting great hands, a smooth stride and a high offensive IQ, the young Russian posted impressive point totals as a kid in the KHL, widely acknowledged as the second best league in the world. When Buchnevich arrived in New York last year, everyone was anxious to see what he could do at the NHL level.
But the transition to North American hockey wasn’t smooth. Buchnevich missed significant time with an injury, and often found himself either playing limited minutes or out of the lineup altogether. Still, the dynamic Russian posted 20 points in 41 games, and was a key part of arguably the Rangers’ most dangerous line, the now ubiquitous Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich (KZB) connection.
Fast forward to 2017-2018, and Buchnevich has begun to fulfill that potential, becoming a key cog in a suddenly potent Rangers attack. He has 6 points in his last 5 games (3 goals, 3 assists) and 7-7-14 in 17 games this season, even though he was relegated to fourth line duty at times last month. Just last night, he did this:
Buchnevich is oozing confidence right now, and that in-tight finish over Rask’s glove is an expression of pure skill that only truly talented players possess. Also, who doesn’t love watching Zdeno Chara get spun like a top? Dude had no chance on this play.
Of course, this recent run of success correlates with Alain Vigneault’s decision to finally reunite Buchnevich with Zibanejad and Kreider (something many of us, this blogger included, pleaded for). Those three also see significant power play time together, with Kevin Shattenkirk quarterbacking a first unit rounded out by Mats Zuccarello. Consistent time with the same linemates breeds chemistry, and in hockey, chemistry often breeds success.
It’s been fun to watch Buchnevich develop into a legitimate offensive weapon for the Rangers at the ripe old age of 22. And while expectations remain perhaps a little bit too high, the kid is showing that he might have what it takes to meet them."Let's Pause For a Moment In Appreciation of Pavel Buchnevich",