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Buchnevich has earned a spot on the Rangers’ top line

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad celebrate a goal in a preseason game against the Flyers. Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

The three best forwards during the Rangers preseason all happened to play on the same line. Mika Zibanejad looks like everything Derick Brassard was plus more while Chris Kreider has been playing like a man on a mission, aggressively skating and looking to expand on two consecutive 20 goal seasons. But the biggest surprise has been rookie Pavel Buchnevich.

Buchnevich looks like a lock for the opening night lineup, marking an NHL debut for the 21 year-old after spending parts of the last four seasons in the KHL. Despite the culture shock that comes from moving to North America, as well as adapting to the smaller ice, Buchnevich has looked like a poised NHL veteran and looks ready to contribute with the Rangers.

While it was Harvard grad Jimmy Vesey that won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award for the best Rookie at training camp, Buch had to be a close second. It took him until the final preseason game to score his first goal, but he could have had a lot more than that. In terms of creating chances, Buchnevich may have been one of the best at creating chances for others, putting himself in good positions, and getting shots on goal. If it wasn’t for the extraordinary play of some of the goalies that he faced, there probably would have been a few more goals on his stat sheet. He did finish with a goal and two assists in four games.

While Buchnevich played with a few different partners in the preseason, the best was the “KZB Line” – Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Buch. The trio wreaked havoc on opposing lines and defenders, with the three combining their best attributes to create a well-oiled machine.

Kreider’s speed, size and strength are a threat whether he’s flying down the ice or parked in front of the goaltender. Mike Zibanejad is a shoot-first center that the Rangers have needed for a while now, but he also has shown signs of being a good playmaker. And Buchnevich seems to do a bit of everything well. He’s fantastic at moving the puck and creating opportunities, both at even strength and on the power play.

So far, it’s worked very well. And despite never playing in the NHL, Buchnevich deserves to be on the Rangers’ top line with Kreider and Zibanejad by his side.

While he is a rookie, “inexperience” is not something you can say about Pavel Buchnevich. Spending the last four years in the KHL, a competitive, professional league, he was able to grow and develop playing against grown men as a teenager, which really prepared him to play against NHL talent when it comes to size and ability. And playing for the Severstal Chereopvets, one of the weaker teams in the league, he was able to get first line minutes and play as one of the go-to-guys. Last season was his most successful, scoring 37 points (16-21-37) in 58 games with Severstal and SKA Moscow.

That KHL experience is clearly evident in his defensive play. We’ve seen players like Kevin Hayes and JT Miller and other rookies struggle away from the puck as they first adapt to the league. But Buchnevich has been so good defensively and when the puck is not on his stick which has led to him looking more NHL ready. Check out his defensive play here that led to a Chris Kreider goal;

That’s a play from someone with poise, experience and a high hockey IQ.

Buchnevich looks like he can be trusted in a top six role, and on the so-called “top line.” Realistically, Alain Vigneault is very good at spreading out ice time so a Nash-Stepan-Miller line would get similar ice time. But this KZB line can definitely challenge for the team’s best scoring line.

It’s important to find chemistry and a consistent spot and role for Buchnevich. Putting him with Kreider, who speaks some Russian, and the always-improving Mika Zibanejad could help Buch grow and develop into a dangerous scorer and player.

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Posted on October 11, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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