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Buchnevich’s arrival will benefit Kevin Hayes’ play and development

Bobby Bevilacqua

kevin hayes skating 12-6

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

So far in the brief Rangers’ offseason, the biggest news has been Pavel Buchnevich signing his entry level contract. Buchnevich is a highly touted Russian prospect with similar KHL stats to Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeny Kuznetsov at the same age, and he’s coming to North America for next season.

Buchnevich has speed, an excellent shot, fantastic offensive instincts, and can also be a playmaker if needed. His ability to both set up chances and create them for himself make it tough for defensemen to commit to him either way.

If Buch develops the way that the team is expecting him to, he could wind up being an impact player and an important one for years to come. Signing him to an ELC means that the Rangers are going to have a cheap depth forward for at least three years, which is a huge help for a team that’s pressed up against the cap. But he will also help someone else on the team; Kevin Hayes.

Hayes is coming off of a sophomore season where he saw a dip in total points (36 compared to 45 in his rookie season), but his underlying numbers and his goals, assists, and points per 60 minute all stayed around the same. People were expecting an increase in production, and when that didn’t happen, it lead to an incorrect and overused narrative that Hayes was lazy and ineffective, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When looking at Hayes’ rookie season and comparing it to this year, the biggest difference is quality of linemates. Last year, Hayes consistently played with Carl Hagelin and JT Miller, two players with good offensive instincts, a knack for possession and scoring ability. Hagelin’s speed and forechecking set the tone for what wound up being a pretty darn good line, and this year we all saw the player JT Miller is capable of being.

Hayes spent a lot of this season playing with guys like Viktor Stalberg, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast. They’re all pretty solid players, but none of them have the offensive ability that Hagelin and Miller did. Stalberg and Fast are more defensive minded guys, and Lindberg quieted down after a hot start to the season. Hayes wasn’t given much to run with.

Buchnevich is slated to play on the third line, which would mean that he would be playing on Hayes’ wing. Despite not playing an NHL game yet, Buchnevich would already be an upgrade to just about everybody that Hayes played with this season.

In order to succeed, Hayes needs someone by his side that is meant to score, and whose primary game and main instincts are offensive. Buchnevich and Hayes could form a formidable depth pairing on the third line. And if Gorton puts them with a speedy winger or one that likes to shoot the puck (and can finish of course), then the Rangers could become that same deep team with scoring across all four lines again. And Kevin Hayes could produce at a similar level to his rookie season.

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Posted on May 24, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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