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AV must give Pavel Buchnevich more ice time ASAP

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The Rangers incredible forward depth has been their biggest strength this whole season, allowing them to fight through many injuries, roll four skill lines and score the third most goals in the league (181). But with so many quality wingers and only six spots in the top nine, somebody is going to suffer because of it.

Lately it’s been Pavel Buchnevich. The 21 year old rookie has been very effective this season, already totaling 15 points (6-9-15) in 21 games and even recording an eight game point streak, scoring six goals and six assists over that span.

Despite all of that, as well as the fact that many other stats back up how good he has been, Buchnevich has found himself on the fourth line for the past few games. Sure, there are a lot of good wingers and forwards that need ice time, but wasting Buchnevich on the fourth line is not the right decision.

Last night, Buchnevich played just under 10 minutes, but saw just 8:30 and 7:10 of ice time in the two game before that, and just over 10 minutes against the Blue Jackets. He’s sitting on the fourth line and not playing in the top nine, which is where he has thrived this season. Instead, Jimmy Vesey has been on the second line recently, getting anywhere from 13 to 17 minutes of ice time. Why you ask? “Performance,” according to Alain Vigneault. (Quotes from Larry Brooks)

“Performance,” Vigneault said when asked for his thought process in determining who joins Stepan and Nash. “In Buffalo, I thought Jimmy played well. On Sunday, after 14 minutes of the second period I’d seen enough and made some changes but then [starting the third] I wanted to show guys confidence and went back to our lines. And they played better.

“But it’s about performance. I think Jimmy lately has been better and that’s why he’s there.”

Alain Vigneault has had a tendency to roll with the hot hand during his Rangers tenure and he’s doing that again here. He did that with Kevin Hayes last year, relegating him to the fourth line when he was struggling. People would criticize his lack of points but forget the fact that he was with Tanner Glass most of the time.

This year’s fourth line is much more effective, but the guys like Matt Puempel, Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast aren’t dynamic offensive players. Using Buchnevich and his talent there, and Vesey for that matter, is a waste.

Vesey scored against Columbus and had a strong effort against the Sabres, but let’s be honest. He’s hit the rookie wall. Unlike Kevin Hayes, who excelled in the second half of his rookie season, Vesey hasn’t been nearly as effective for quite some time now. He has one goal for one point in his last 14 games and two goals with an assist in his last 23 games.

On the other hand, Buchnevich picked up an assist on Oscar Lindberg’s goal last night, an absolutely tremendous pass from behind the net that showcases his vision and passing skills that might be on par with Mats Zuccarello.

When Buchnevich is playing with skill players in the top six, he’s incredible to watch. He facilitates play and moves the puck well, has an excellent shot when he uses it, and opens up lanes and creates scoring chances with his vision and playmaking abilities. That’s what the eye test shows, but stats back that up too.

Buchnevich has one of the highest points per 60 minutes metric in the league and has 15 points in 21 games, recording a point in 11 of those games. He also has a very solid 51% corsi, leads the Rangers in expected goals per 60 minutes with 3.09 and has a PDO of 101%, which means his shooting percentage and offensive production are sustainable and he’s not getting a lot of “puck luck” per say.

There’s no need for Buchnevich to play on the fourth line or as little as he has lately. Buchnevich is already adapted to a long hockey season, having played at a very high level in the KHL and completing a 58 game season, including 14 playoff games afterwards. Playing as a teenager in the men’s league, he’s used to long seasons and heavy workloads.

In a year full of great performances from forwards, Pavel Buchnevich’s development and moments of brilliance on offense have been extremely encouraging for the future. His development should not be stunted by placing him on the fourth line. Putting him in the top six again helps both Buchnevich and the rest of the team because of how effective he has been.

As for now, he’s a fourth line player because AV is riding the hot hand yet again and because of the plethora of forwards. It might be Vesey next game, but either way it’s not ideal.

Either way, Buchnevich needs to be in the top six or nine right now to help his development and to help the team win games now.

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Posted on February 8, 2017, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I like Buchnevich , he Is very talented offensively , but he can be a defensive liability. I wouldn’t want to ask him to face opponents best right wing every game. The Rangers need to continue to physically develop his core strength . ( he had back problems earlier this year because he gained too much weight too fast. Until the Rangers trade one of their top nine forwards for a quality defenseman , I d like to see him play 12 minutes a game & Continue to be part of the first team power play .

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  2. As talented as Buchnevich is, I call into question his overall conditioning. His body may not be quite ready for extended minutes at the NHL level. Given time to build up his body while being given less minutes might be beneficial. There is no knock on Buchnevich, he is young and immensely skilled, but the NHL is far more physically demanding than the KHL. He has the potential to be a star in this league if allowed to develop his body along with his game.

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    • What makes you say that? The KHL is a legit league and is very physically demanding. Buch played 72 games last season. I think his back spasms were because he added 20 pounds very quickly. But I think he’s ready for an NHL season and what comes with it

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      • That goes exactly to my point. Yes, the KHL is a grueling league, but still not as physical as the NHL. Players in the NHL are bigger, faster, and stronger. It is necessary to put on the extra weight to survive the NHL season, and yes the weight going on as fast as it did in all likelihood caused the back spasms. Going to what I was saying, a minutes limitation along with extra conditioning might serve Buchnevich well.

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      • I understand where you’re coming from but I would tend to agree if he had played the full season so far. But the fact that he’s only played 21 games makes me feel like he can handle the top six role for the rest of the year.

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  3. I can get behind that logic. Let’s hope for his health and continued good play!

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