The Rangers should have already seen enough from Pavel Buchnevich that it should be the talented Russian (and Chris Kreider) that should be the cornerstone(s) of the offense moving forward. Of course, JT Miller, Kevin Hayes and Mika Zibanejad should be critical components of this team up front but no one has the upside of Kreider and Buchnevich.
The Rangers need to make some bold decisions about the state of the offense over the next half a season or so and any decision should revolve around Kreider and Buchnevich. The Rangers have a ton of young depth but none are more important than Buch.
Can you really focus an offense around a young man that has 17 games in the NHL? Yes you can. Is it too early to do so? Perhaps, but teams need to commit to their young talent earlier than ever in the current NHL and Buchnevich is a good example of a player you hitch your wagon to.
Buchnevich and Kreider are first line talents. They each offer skill sets that are hard to find and that’s not just in New York but across the entire league; Kreider, the raging bull of a power forward, Buchnevich the highly skilled playmaker. Indeed, it’s critical that Buchnevich develops ‘properly’ as it will make any eventual divorce from Rick Nash easier to swallow and allow the Rangers to truly address their blueline appropriately (aka allocate appropriate dollar to a major area of need).
Any significant changes to the blueline are going to cost money and a lot of it. Let’s assume Kevin Shattenkirk comes to New York in the summer (at the latest). Don’t expect that contract to be worth less than 7m per year. We all know that’s the going rate of an elite right handed defenseman who can move the puck.
If Buchnevich can continue with his level of production for the rest of the season and prove he can be a point/game, offensive contributor then the Rangers will have so much more margin for error when it comes to deciding who they can afford to sacrifice up front to help improve the blueline mess.
While Kreider is ahead of Buchnevich in his development (as he should be, for multiple reasons) Buchnevich is the Rangers most important young forward. Buchnevich and (to a lesser extent, also Miller) will dictate what the Rangers offensive looks like, because of the cost controlled nature of their respective contracts. If a team can get top six production out of rookie and bridge contracts it’ goes a long way in influencing a team’s competitiveness.
Amid all the talk of Jimmy Vesey’s struggles (it was inevitable – don’t panic), Mats Zuccarello’s lack of goals and the absence of Mika Zibanejad’s shot from the powerplay during his injury, it’s the return of Buchnevich that has given the Rangers the much needed balance that they need to compete with the more well rounded powerhouses in the East. Buchnevich is important now, but he’s critical tot he Rangers moving forward. It’s never too early to commit to an elite talent, especially one that is so important to the future of a franchise.