New York Rangers’ Pavel Buchnevich has made his first impression at developmental camp, but what are realistic expectations for next season?
For those of you that keep tabs on the New York Rangers’ prospect pool, Pavel Buchnevich has probably been on your radar for some time now.
So when the Russian finally signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers, there was reason to feel optimistic.
Buchnevich has soft hands, quick feet, and a great hockey sense, or at least that is what we all have been told.
People have high hopes that the young forward can one day be an elite player for a Rangers’ organization that hasn’t seen their home grown talent reach that stature since Henrik Lundqvist started playing with the club back in 2005-06.
Buchnevich’s performance at development camp impressed many, as his skill set was on full display.
This clip may seem trivial, but man does Buchnevich make this wrist shot look easy…
— Mark Fischer (@nhlfisch21) June 28, 2016
But being overly excited about a prospect like Buchnevich will more often than not bring about great disappointment for fans, which is why the Rangers’ fan base needs to temper their expectations.
First off, Buchnevich, while productive in the KHL, wasn’t an elite player.
In 58 games last season, he tallied 16 goals and 21 assists with a plus/minus of -4.
Are those numbers strong? Sure. But should be start etching a banner for him just yet? I don’t think so.
Is he young enough to blossom into an elite player? Sure. But to think that Buchnevich will be able to transition into the NHL and be an elite player in his first season with the Rangers is foolhardy at best.
There are many obstacles that the young Russian will need to navigate in the National Hockey League.
First off, there are 22 more games in an NHL season than there are in the KHL. While Buchnevich won’t have to deal with the insane travel of the KHL, he will have to adjust to the increased work load.
Buchnevich with a slick backhander: more footage from prospect camp. pic.twitter.com/wfbFLiLWwL
— Mark Fischer (@nhlfisch21) June 30, 2016
The NHL isn’t only a faster league, but also bigger and more physical than the KHL. Not to mention that Buchnevich is listed at 160 pounds, which is probably while he is soaking wet.
The youngster will not only need to bulk up, but also prove that he can play through the physicality of the NHL.
Add stronger goal tending to the equation and you just may have a very average player in Buchnevich for his first year or two.
We have seen this before, and even this past year, with players like our very own Kevin Hayes. Hayes had a great first season but experienced a sophomore slump in 2015-16.
If Hayes, a player who was bred for the NHL and is much bigger than Buchnevich can experience a tough season, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the rookie will experience some growing pains as well.
And then there is the giant elephant in the room that is the language barrier.
Could this be a non-factor by the time the season begins? Sure. But hockey is a sport where communication, and quick communication at that, is very important.
Being able to understand and react to line changes, system adjustments, and on-ice communication will be difficult on a good day.
Russian is quite difficult from English, so it will be interesting to see how the Rangers’ organization deals with the language barrier.
The icing on the proverbial cake is that Buchnevich will be learning a brand new system on a smaller ice surface.
Am I insinuating that Buchnevich won’t be a great player eventually? Of course not.
What I am saying is that it will take time for the young players to adjust to the many obstacles that he will be facing next season.
Give it time and patience and Rangerstown may see an elite player blossom before our very eyes.