pavel buchnevich mika zibanejad
Photo: Paul J. Bereswill

Pavel Buchnevich is a polarizing player. And let’s be real, it is mostly the fault of those –including myself– who hyped the kid up based on his KHL stats. In our defense, Buchnevich was the first truly elite potential prospect in the system in recent memory, and the stats were comparable to some current day stars. Suffice it to say, he hasn’t matched their NHL production…yet.

With Buchnevich bouncing around the lineup and now serving time as either a healthy scratch or Cody McLeod dragger, it’s no wonder that Buchnevich hasn’t been able to product consistently. Combine that with David Quinn’s comments, courtesy of Dan Rosen, and you have a potential fork in the road for the kid’s development.

Unless a draft pick is a true game changer, then it’s rare to see someone adjust to the NHL game quickly. Chris Kreider took several seasons to figure it out. Ditto JT Miller. We are now seeing that with Buchnevich.

Tom Urtz brings up a good point here, where Buchnevich and Kreider are almost identical in production through their first 147 games. Kreider entered the NHL around the same age as Buchnevich as well. So this isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone with great talent struggle to get acquainted to the NHL. It happens. Time and patience are a virtue here.

What we do know is that Buchnevich, despite the lineup yo-yoing and DQ’s comments, is a 40 point per season player. He put up 43 last season. He put up 20 in 41 games in his rookie season. This year he has 15 in 32, another 40 point pace. Is there all of a sudden something wrong with a 40 point player? I’ll take 10 Buchnevich’s over 10 McLeod’s. Skill is skill.

Which brings us to his role. Buchnevich can’t carry a line, at least not yet. But he shouldn’t be faulted for that, nor should he be faulted for not being able to drag McLeod around the ice.

When Buchnevich has been with good linemates who are of like-minded skill sets, he thrives. His best production came when he was the third with any combination of Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Filip Chytil, or Vlad Namestnikov. That production goes off a cliff when he’s moved down in the lineup and playing with McLeod, Brett Howden (who has been absolutely atrocious for a while now, but we covered that already), or David Desharnais.

Perhaps, at some point, he needs to be put in a position to succeed and have his confidence grow. Even if he’s unable to carry a line, complementary players –especially those that can put up 40 points– are needed for team balance. Otherwise you wind up like the Oilers. And no one wants to go full Oilers. There’s nothing wrong with Buchnevich being a complementary player, but there’s also nothing saying he still can’t grow into more. Perhaps he needs to learn from like minded players, instead of fourth liners?