The Rangers and the Pavel Buchnevich conundrum

Pavel Buchnevich was the first hyped prospect the Rangers have had in quite some time. With KHL scoring rates comparable to those of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Vladimir Tarasenko, the Rangers appeared to have struck gold with their third round pick. However through three full(ish) seasons, the 23-year-old winger is averaging just 0.5 points per game while being seemingly unable to hold down a top-six spot.

Injuries derailed Buchnevich in his rookie season, as a lingering lower body injury cost him much of the early going. Last season there was a concussion. This year a broken thumb. Just as Buchnevich seems to get it going, someone goes wrong. It seems that there are no linger effects from his injuries, but it certainly can disrupt someone’s development.

While the injuries can be a concern, perhaps the biggest issue is that under both Alain Vigneault and now David Quinn, Buchnevich has been unable to stay in the top-six regularly. Buchnevich has been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions, and has spent a good amount of time on the fourth line as well. There has to be a good reason for this, or at least that’s what we hope.

First things first, let’s just look at the stats. It is a valid argument that 0.5 PPG is not a top line player. When looking at average ice time at even strength per game, Buchnevich is 7th among forwards at 12:27. At all strengths he drops to 9th at 14:30 per game, but that’s likely because he doesn’t play on the PK. So all in all, he’s averaging 12:30 at evens and 2:00 while up a man. That’s up about 30 seconds/game (one shift) at evens under Quinn, but down 30 seconds overall. Again, that’s likely due to the fact the Rangers spend half the game on the PK lately.

The concerning thins with Buchnevich is that his points/60 is plummeting big time at even strength. He went from 2.19 P/60 in his rookie year to 1.61 P/60 this season. His goals and primary assist numbers aren’t fluctuating that much, but his second assist numbers have dropped significantly each season. Secondary assists are almost impossible to predict and are usually just considered “noise” by stat folks. However it’s tough to ignore such a drop, since it has significantly impacted Buchnevich’s raw stat lines.

That 1.61 P/60 line is good for 6th on the club (omitting Matt Beleskey and Boo Nieves here, for sample size reasons), with noted offensive threats Jesper Fast and Jimmy Vesey well ahead of Buch. Regardless, that’s still top-six. It is worth nothing he is ahead of guys like Brett Howden and Filip Chytil.

Hockey is a three-zone game, so it’s not just about stats. The Rangers are an absolute train wreck when it comes to possession, so we really need to look at play relative to the team, and not raw possession numbers. Buchnevich is one of seven forwards with a positive relative CF% (0.73). He’s ahead of Vesey and Howden in this category, but behind, in order: Kreider, Hayes, ZIbanejad, Zuccarello, Chytil, and Fast.

When it comes to a stat with a little more meat on its bones, we look at relative xGF%, which has Buch in 6th on the Rangers with a rel xGF% of 0.37. He’s well ahead of Vesey here, but well behind Chytil. Worth noting that Howden is second to last on the team here, with only Ryan Strome behind him.

For what it’s worth, Buchnevich’s giveaway/takeaway stats were neutral, as was his penalty differential.

So what does all this mean? It means we have a player who is tremendously skilled, but may be struggling with confidence. Quinn was hired specifically to address these sorts of situations, yet Buchnevich has seen fourth line minutes in his past four games, surpassing 10 minutes of even strength time just twice. He saw a season low of ice time against the Islanders, and Sunday’s Columbus game was his third lowest TOI.

It’s no surprise that Buchnevich is struggling. However we are at the point where the Rangers are in a full blown rebuild, and Buchnevich is a key cog to the future of the team. Even if he isn’t an elite talent, ensuring he can contribute in top-six minutes is vital to keeping this rebuild short. Yet here we are, talking about how Buchnevich isn’t getting ten minutes a night in recent games.

This could just be a poor stretch of play. Everyone has them. But at some point, Quinn will need to commit to Buchnevich in the top-six, or at least the top-nine, to see what they have in him. Once that commitment happens, Buchnevich will need to produce. This is certainly a two-way street, but there needs to be a leap of faith first.

This is a rebuild. It’s time to start playing the kids that will be here in the future. And if there is uncertainty, play those question marks and make your decision. There are no half measures.

"The Rangers and the Pavel Buchnevich conundrum", 4 out of 5 based on 16 ratings.
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  1. It’s hard to get into a player’s head, but it does appear like Buch is not a particularly mentally tough player. IMO, there’s the issue.

    But that being said, nailing him to 4th lines that include guys like McLeod is about as stupid a decision as they come. This is where Quinn loses me a little bit, and with all due respect to our fellow poster Spozo, we have seen this movie before, and it stinks.

    1. I expected more out of Buch…..looks like a payer that we would trade…then he would average 40 goals a year with a new

      1. Sounds like every guy the rangers gave up on over the years and barely any leave and score 40. Maybe he just isn’t what we all expected.

  2. He’s a fairly inconsistent player who was supposed to benefit from Quinn’s coaching style and so far we have not seen that happen. In some respects it almost feels like he’s moving backward a bit. That said there is a reason why he was a 3rd rounder. I like the kid, but he’s entering that part of his career where if he does not make the next step soon he’s destine to be just average. I think the real conundrum will be what does his next contract look like. I would do a bridge deal based on what he has shown.

    1. Andy..lets face it..We have no Crosby or Panarin type players…Chytil shows flashes, but until he takes the next step up….we have to dream of Hughes or the KaKa man.

      1. Totally agree Rocky..unfortunately… I also think Kravtsov has an elite ceiling. still to be determined.

        1. Andy, I am really looking forward to seeing Kratsov, Igor the goalie and K’andre….hoping that these 3 players will evolve into great players and then some…..

          1. Same here Rocky. It was nice watching the WJC. I know Miller did not have the best tournament, but he also started out with some bug like a flu. So I give him a pass. But he’s going to be a great D man when he is NHL ready. Kravtsov looked very steady throughout the WJC’s playing Center. And Shestorkyn has been pretty special in the KHL.

            Lots of good stuff to look forward to down the road.

            We need a top 5 draft pick this year and hopefully we can get another in the top 15 too. Then we can add some more higher end talent to our prospect pool.

          2. Andy

            “Kravtsov looked very steady throughout the WJC’s playing Center.”

            Doing so while being hurt, and being out of his natural position wing!!!!!!!

            This kid is the real deal………..

  3. I think DQ’s college approach where the season is less than half the games doesn’t work in the NHL marathon. College has a full roster of guys that are 200ft grinders so everyone fights for ice time on every shift with perhaps exception to a couple elite forwards that are NHL bound. I feel like DQ is trying to mold everyone into the same exact player which to me is a protypical 3rd line player. Now I don’t think Buch is as unbreakable as Kovalev was, but for god’s sake let Buch try and play his game. I can’t imagine his 200ft game has been any worse that Zucc’s yet he never sees the pine or 4th line minutes. It won’t happen this season, but sometime next season I think the locker room will turn on DQ and he will be out after just 2 seasons.

    1. Your point about Quinn and the locker room is well taken—this team has fallen apart so rapidly in the last 14 days that I’ve wondered if there’s massive in-house turmoil going on with NYR. Seems obvious that Zucc and Buchnevich don’t dig the coach, and the coach doesn’t dig them. DeAngelo is held to a different standard of performance and behavior as well evidently, as he’s regularly outperformed everybody on this defense but can’t crack the lineup.

      1. rebuilds are never pretty especially when you have a bunch of vets on the team…This team will definitely have a much different look next year…This year is nothing but a controlled tank….

  4. As I see Buch, he is a skilled player who isn’t strong enough to go into the corners, and come out with the puck. He has soft hands, and the same goes for his heart, soft. The kid is skinny as a rail, and needs time in the gym if he plans on staying in the bigs for any period of time.

    Having said this, putting him on the 4th line is idiotic, no doubt. The kid is too skilled to be there skating with the least talented players on this team. At the least he belongs on the 3rd line, protected, and having the playing time to develop some confidence.

    I don’t know if it’s a language barrier, or lack of motivation, but at times he looks to be lost, or skating around as if he belonged in the ice capades. Given a choice of Buch, or some other kid, I lean towards another kid, but that’s just me. If management is smart, and that may be in question, I’d let him play one more season to prove he either deserves to be here, or trade him for picks!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Quinn preaches you have to be “hard on the puck” and while I think Buch tries hard his game is lacking here. So I kinda agree that his bulk/strength are at play here. Quinn can’t see past that, but there’s no denying Buch’s skill set.

      Buch almost looks lost or as if he doesn’t even want to be here. Maybe he misses Russia, maybe a line mate from his country could help. But one thing, I think, is obvious he’s playing below his abilities.

      1. Cat

        “But one thing, I think, is obvious he’s playing below his abilities”.

        Really, is there any question?

        As for missing mother Russia, well next season we will have a boat load of his countrymen, so there should be no excuse then. I think you may have hit on a good point, “So I kinda agree that his bulk/strength are at play here. Quinn can’t see past that, but there’s no denying Buch’s skill set”.

        Also MC posted that there may be different standards for players, case in point ADA, and I tend to agree. I thought we got rid of that mind set with AV, but it raised it’s ugly head again with DQ!!!!!!!!!!!

        1. Maybe that’s because management still has too much input on personnel and lineup decisions…

      2. I am sure playing with the skills of the McLeods on his line have nothing to do with his production. He is a playmaker and he needs to be with finishers. How many finishers do we have on this team that haven’t checked out? one, two, maybe three at best?!?! Instead DQ wants to turn every player into Jan Erixon rather than have compliments like the Anders Hedbergs of the NHL. THe losses don’t bother me as I would prefer a Top 2 pick but the active roster and line management has far too many double standards. Not to mention running the team into the ground. I for one am already tired of Tortorella Jr’s approach. And I typically have patience. Man we missed out on Sheldon Keefe!

        1. That Tortorella Jr. comment struck a chord. If history repeats itself, you can add that burden to the difficulty of a rebuild.

    2. Do you really think giving a protected role to a guy who doesn’t go into the corners is the right way to go? Maybe the fourth line is the place to learn the game. Given how tough Zuccarello is on the boards (ditto St. Louis before him), it is hard to argue that some players are just too small.

      1. I think Buch tries, or least gives that illusion, in the corners. But I also think he plays too tall, I understand he’s 6’2” but unlike Zucc and St.Louis who could leverage themselves and do ok in there. Buch is tall and lean and hasn’t mastered the art of the scrum. It also didn’t hurt that both of them were on the stocky side.

    3. Kreider speaks Russian as does Namo (sp?) and perhaps Gorg so I would rule out language. With motivation, should Buch reinvent his game that got him hear so he can wake up the next morning like he just finished game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals?
      Although the NHL has most certainly evolved I still think different players should have different roles. If DQ’s theroy was correct teams would still have traditional checking lines. Think that ended when the series Cheers did.

      In my opinion, it’s more like a fish out of water. Kind of like Dan Fouts running the Triple Option.

  5. Maybe we over-reached and picked someone that is just not worthy. Let’s hope all of our Russian picks do not turn out to be duds.

  6. If the Rangers were a contending team I might understand bouncing Buchnevich around the lineup. But they are not, so I don’t. I think he needs to stay top 6 the rest of the way this season to see more of what he’s got to offer.

    1. Buch is lacking a 200 ft game, speed and most importantly, heart. I think it’s quite easy for a ” top 6 player ” to show up Kreider on the stat sheet or shift after shift. This guy can can’t even string up a period of solid play.

      1. Thanks for news from your planet. Buch needs to play to be evaluated properly. Your opinion of his play or Kreider’s is worth less than zero.

  7. “It’s time to start playing the kids that will be here in the future” – nope.
    but after the trade deadline and the second sell off, then – yes.
    the evaluation period isn’t over. no matter how inpatient you are, no amount of screaming, bit*hing or whinning, no matter what you write or what stats you conjure up…

    Kind of impossible to give a meaningful evaluation for Quinn when there are a world of factors forcing their way into the roster nightly. He has too many defensemen and far too many centers. Jeff and Glenn forcing McQuaid, and others, into the shuffle to gain trade value.
    Quinn is not in full control yet. As time moves on and the evaluation period comes and goes Quinn will be given more control.
    Buch playing 4th line minutes isn’t exactly what we all have hoped for.
    I would think after the deadline that we see Buch in a more consistent roll playing top 9 minutes. And if he doesn’t, then it means he prob isnt good enough.

  8. This is crazy play him with good players and leave him there the rest of the year. After a couple of months in the top 6 let’s see where here is. We have getting no way with him like this find out what he can do over a long stretch and decide if he stays or goes. THIS IS A REBUILD NOT A CUP RUN!

  9. Buch is playing on the 4th line because that is what his current play dictates. He has been brutal. I think the other move that was a long time coming was the move of Howden down to 4th line center. Boo is playing hard and delivering. Howden, Buch and others are just killing time lately.

    Sometimes these moves are meant to be wake-up calls.

    Is Hayes over his hangnail yet? I am guessing so as we are bringing up a defenseman and not a forward. Just another reason to move a very soft player.

    1. “Sometimes these moves are meant to be wake-up calls”.

      This has been going on for some three years. Either you leave the kid on the top six, or get him the heck out of Dodge!!!!!! The wake up service has been working over time…………….

  10. Buchnevich, to me, has always been somewhat overrated on here and other sites. Everyone keeps pointing to the KHL numbers. But that was a long time ago now, and I just have not really seen a consistant top-6 player in him here. He tracks much like Vesey to me… middle-6 to 3rd line player with some offense to provide…decent PP guy.

    I have no issues with Quinn’s response. The effort has been freakin’ pathetic since the new year started. Same exact thing happened last season. IMHO, if they can’t respond and their feelings are hurt, then move the players who can’t hack it. I believe more and more that this roster cannot play Quinn’s style of hockey. When he says they need to be more physical and have more edge, I couldn’t agree more.

    1. “….this roster cannot play Quinn’s brand of hockey.” Your comment sums up a problem that this team has had for years—an inflexible coach demanding that the roster conform to the system, rather than taking his system and adapting it to the available talent on the roster. The same thing was true of Vigneault. Maybe it’s time for some flexibility in the coaching approach here?

      1. Coaches are hired as tacticians and do not have to “change their system” to match the players – no coach does.

        1. Disagree. Coaches’ jobs are based on the idea that they can motivate and strategize, and improve production across the board as a result. Part of honest strategizing involves assessing one’s own performance and seeing what can change to improve things. I think a huge part of a coach’s job is getting the best out of what talent they have on hand, particularly at the professional level.

          Great coaches usually win wherever they go—from regular season successes like Bruce Boudreau to multiple Cup winners like Quenneville or Bowman. And the reasons behind their success have more to do with adaptation of their own preferred styles to their team’s strengths. Only bad hockey coaches ignore a team’s weakness in favor of their own systems.

          The rate of roster turnover is so high in the NHL, coaches have to adapt to their rosters somewhat to be successful. That’s why Ken Hitchcock hasn’t won anything of note in several stops since leaving Dallas a million years ago, or why Vigneault never won anything in Vancouver and NY.

          1. I actually know a few Ranger fans that have told me that Vigneault should have been kept because Quinn is not a good coach….lol….U have got to be kidding me. Can we give this guy a little more time before we ask “The Hound”, to remove Quinn?…

          2. Nobody’s asking for Quinn’s removal here, just asking for him to demonstrate why he was hired in the first place.

  11. We all can agree to this point, Bush is 23 years old (soon to be 24) and, let’s be realistic, a bust so far despite his flashes of some skill now and then. It is time to stop blaming coaches and excuses as to why this guy fails to excel. There comes a point that either you have it or you don’t in the NHL. All I hear for three years is how super-skilled he is. He has not proven anything at all at this level, or that he will be an impact NHL player. Show me a guy like Barzel on the Islanders and I will show you a skilled player. Bush is injury prone, soft, and a European style player that so far, has failed to adjust to the North American style of hockey. Most of the time, he looks lost out there and disjointed. Presently, he definitely cannot endure NHL physicality or the mental fortitude needed to be consistent at a higher level. If he played in Europe or Russia, he would probably be somewhat of a better player. I believed that he most likely was a dud from the first year I saw him play, because of his soft play and lack of fiery enthusiasm. I was hoping I was wrong, but I am beginning to believe I was right. I would give him the rest of the year to see if there is any maturity or improvement, if not, just package him and his potential out in a trade. You don’t win championships with soft, lackluster, injury-prone, inconsistent players.

  12. I hope the FO made it clear that his (Quinns) number 1 job on which he will be judged is not wins and loses, it is how well the kids develop.

  13. i would look to see how buch can be used on the market. He isnt 21 anymore, Almost 24. Still invisible most nights… 35 shots… For all the hype that’s very dissappointing. Quinn is looking for a certain type of player.. Im pretty sure buch isn’t it.

    1. “Quinn is looking for a certain type of player”

      Yeah and it’s a 21 year old College sophomore from Worcester, MA with no hands, avg shot, 200ft game with a Liberal Arts major and 2.5 gpa with nothing to lose on Fridays and Saturdays for 17 weeks.

        1. The other problem is their is no protection in this wimpy lineup . If Bush ever does decide to man up ?? he will get knocked into oblivion.

  14. I see a difference between perceived talent and limited P/60 results and what a guy can actually do. Hockey players get hurt all the time and they end up playing hurt. A player who is lights out when healthy but crap when injured is actually not very useful. Another key point is stamina. Guys like Callahan and Zuccarello can play 20+ minutes a game at full speed and Zucc doesn’t even seem to need to come off at the end of a shift. There are guys who can be effective for 12-13 minutes a game, but can’t do that.

    Buchnevich just seems to lack toughness. If I am Gorton, I put Buch on the market at the trade deadline and see what I can get for him. But I only trade him if the offer is good enough. He is unquestionably an asset, but maybe not as much as what he can bring back. After all, he is a serviceable cheap forward and that is a commodity teams want at this point in the season.

    Incidentally, I did laugh when Dave listed him as the #1 prospect in the organization.

  15. I think in Buchnevich’s case it is a matter of challenging him by putting him in the top spots long term to see if he can perform or not. That means a commitment such as putting him there until the end of the season and letting him sink or swim. Challenge him to be tougher, challenge him to be more consistent and challenge him to be what his skills seem to indicate he could be, and see if he responds. If he doesn’t, then ship him out. But I think he needs a complete chance, one that is not interrupted by injury or incessant line juggling.

  16. I think Buch suffers from not playing enough. He tends to pout. Confidence is key with him. Also if you watch the games he does have a feistiness to him and will muck it up a bit. He is just too weak to really not get pushed around. see him take a run at M. Martin the other night and get knocked on his butt. At least once a game he’s trying something like that. I agree he should play 16-18 minutes a night with Kreider and Zib going forward and let them do the dirty corner work and let him shoot, shoot and shoot. Kreider and Zib can also cover some of his defensive deficiences. But that also comes into play with the defense. They need to play as 5 man units which they dont often enough. We have a cookie cutter linup with all the same players. We need a different mix that balances the lineup. Too many of the same looking lines no matter how you mix them. Quinn does need to adjust a bit the players you have and not the ones you want. But I do think he is a good coach for this team. Lets not forget its his rookie season too. Lots of growing pains on all fronts. I trust Gorton to make some nice moves at the deadline and set us up for good things down the road. LGR!!

  17. we need guys who can go in the corners and battle and win for the puck, buch aint one and the rangers as a whole are lacking in that area.

  18. They have went out of their way to destroy Buch and Tony DeAngelo. They burried Ty Ronning in the minors. Rebuild my ASP

  19. Buch lacks two skills needed in the NHL, he can’t skate with speed and has no shot
    at all. Can’t score outside of 15 feet. Trade him.

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