Checking in on the Rangers European based prospects
While the Rangers have gotten off to a fast start, several of the Rangers European based prospects have been seeing significant action at the same time. Let’s take a quick look at the kids playing in Europe.
Buchnevich playing well
While the KHL’s leading point scorers feature faces from Rangers past (Wojtek Wolski and Nigel Dawes are both in the league’s top ten and each averaging around a point per game) Rangers top forward prospect Pavel Buchnevich is off to a respectable start this season with 13 points in 18 games. Buchnevich has six goals of which three have already been game winners and five have come at even strength. Buchnevich’s 3 game winners rank second in the league.
Buchnevich’s Severstal club are one of the league’s worst midway through October but Buchnevich leads the team in points and is third amongst forwards in ice time (17 minutes per game) so Buchnevich is getting significant opportunity to develop his game before he becomes an option for the Rangers.
Rangers’ prospects stuck in Swedish second tier
Elsewhere in Europe and the Rangers’ two Swedish forward prospects Daniel Bernhardt and Robin Kovacs are experiencing different season in Sweden’s Allsvenskan (tier below the SHL). While Kovacs notched his 7th goal of the season on Tuesday night (and riding a four game goal scoring streak) giving him nine points in 12 games (at time of writing), Bernhardt had just one goal in his first eleven games (4 points total). The Rangers have high hopes for both players –particularly Kovacs – but Bernhardt’s start to the 15-16 season will be considered underwhelming.
Arguably the Rangers most naturally talented goaltending prospect, Igor Shesterkin has played in the Russian second tier this season (the VHL) – for SKA St Petersburg’s second team – and has put up stellar numbers. Shesterkin has 6 wins in 8 starts, sporting a .953 S% and a miniscule 1.23GAA. Shesterkin will hope to see some game action for the SKA first team particularly as last year’s playoff starter Mikko Koskinen (.0908 S% and just 3 wins in 11 starts) has lost the starting gig to Russian veteran and last year’s back-up Ilya Ezhov. With no dominant starter or big ticket name, if Shesterkin continues to play well, there could be an opportunity with the big club.
Saarela developing well for struggling Ässät
2015 Rangers’ draft pick Aleksi Saarela is currently getting his reps on an at best mediocre Ässät side in the Finish hockey league (SM Liiga). Ässät are just 11th in the 15 team league with just 3 wins from their first 12 games. Saarela is still just 18 (and not 19 until January) so the fact he has 5 points in 9 games is impressive for a young player playing against men. Saarela is holding his own against men and showing some solid development offensively. The young forward had 12 points in 51 games last year and is almost half way to that total in rapid time.