SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Pavel Buchnevich #89 of the New York Rangers circles behind the Florida Panthers net with the puck during second period action at the BB&T Center on November 16, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Rangers 4-3.
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Coming into the season, all eyes were on New York Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich and he didn’t disappoint.

The New York Rangers are one of 24 teams that will be competing for the Stanley Cup as they will look to beat the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round in order to move into the next round of the playoffs.

The Rangers are in this fortunate position because several of the team’s players stepped up when it mattered most. Pavel Buchnevich falls into this category.

Buchnevich’s time in the NHL has been peculiar, to say the least. The Rangers selected him in the third round of the 2013 Draft with the pick they acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the Rick Nash trade.

At the time, Buchnevich, who came over from Russia, was one of the more highly-rated European prospects in his draft class and immediately began to climb the ranks in the Rangers organization.

Buchnevich made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season. While he hasn’t been bad, his play has been marked by inconsistency and an apparent lack of interest. Fans had been waiting years for him to break out, but it just wasn’t happening.

Buchnevich seemed to finally be meeting expectations toward the end of the 2018-19 season, so fans expected the 2019-20 season to be his break-out year. He didn’t disappoint.

He started off the season pretty well, recording 15 points in his first 17 games. However, as has been the case with him since he entered the league, Buchnevich cooled down significantly in December, prompting head coach David Quinn to demote him.

Thankfully, his cold streak didn’t last. Buchnevich got things going again in February and registered 19 points in his last 18 games.

The month of February was an eventful one for Buchnevich: He was also involved in a car accident with teammate Igor Shesterkin but, lucky for him, was only shaken up and missed just a handful of games.

In 68 games this year, Buchnevich recorded a career-high 46 points, coming in the form of 16 goals and 30 assists (also a career-high).

Overall, Buchnevich was inconsistent during the regular season, which is characteristic of him, but this was his best season yet and his apparent lack of interest and motivation has seemed to have disappeared.

Credit must also be given to Quinn, who has done a fantastic job with Buchnevich, helping facilitate his maturation as a player.

Not only was Buchnevich excellent on the scoring end, but his defensive game has also improved dramatically. The Rangers were actually better on defense as a team when Buchnevich was on the ice this season.

His 50.82 CF% was the best on the team and his 51.85 xGF% was good for third. He has emerged as a solid, well-rounded forward.

Buchnevich isn’t one of the team’s star players and there’s a chance he never will be, but he is one of the Rangers’ better forwards and epitomizes a secondary scorer.

After all, Buchnevich is primarily deployed on the Rangers’ top line (the KZB line) and when he’s at his best, that line is a dangerous offensive threat.

Buchnevich was very solid in the regular season but an arguably even greater challenge lies ahead for him.

The 25-year-old has the potential to be the team’s X-factor in the qualifying round and, subsequently, the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they can get past the Hurricanes.

He does have five games of playoff experience from his rookie campaign when he notched an assist, which will hopefully play in his favor.

If Buchnevich enters the series with the Hurricanes as hot as he was when the regular season ended, he can be a huge difference-maker for the Rangers.

Overall, Buchnevich has had a very successful season so far and fans as well as the organization will hope it’s only up from here for their 1RW.

Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.