The New York Rangers drafted a very talented player in the third round of the 2013 NHL draft named Pavel Buchnevich. Even though this particular player was ranked No. 11 out of all international prospects, the good ole' "Russian factor" led to him slipping to 75th overall.
It didn’t matter that he was a fast player with great hands, composure and vision. The fact that Buchnevich was born in Russia was enough to scare off teams from drafting him. However, the Rangers weren't afraid, as they are a franchise known to have an affinity for Russians.
One year has passed since Buchnevich's draft date, and the Rangers are looking very smart that they took a chance on a forward who had already signed a KHL contract. If Buchnevich can live up to his potential, he will join a talented group of Russian Rangers that has included Sergei Zubov, Pavel Bure and Alex Kovalev among others.
It seems like a lot of hype is being generated for this kid, but the progress Buchnevich has made in a calendar year has been remarkable.
On draft day 2013, the skilled Russian stood 6’0” and weighed 157 pounds. As of this writing, he’s grown one inch and put on 19 pounds. At 6’1” and 176 pounds, Buchnevich is still small, but the 19-year-old still has an opportunity to put some weight on.
The Rangers likely won’t want him to put on much more, because that could take away from his blazing speed. Speed is one element of his game that makes him a dangerous prospect, but it is Buchnevich’s offensive awareness and vision that should allow him to become an NHL scoring machine.
As an 18-year-old winger in the KHL, he tallied seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 40 games, according to Elite Prospects. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but for the sake of comparison, Vladimir Tarasenko tallied 24 points in 42 games at the same age.
While both are completely different players, Tarasenko is a good comparison to use going forward because of the amount of time he spent in the KHL before coming to the NHL.
In addition to KHL success at a young age, Buchnevich has come through during international play. At the 2012-13 WJC-18 tournament, he tallied an impressive 11 points in seven games, and it was surprising that this breakout performance didn’t help his draft stock.
The next year Buchnevich moved on to the WJC-20 tournament, and his next performance was even better against stiffer competition.
At the 2013-14 WJC-20 tournament, the skilled Russian tallied seven points in seven games. He was one of Russia's best forwards during the tournament, and it was encouraging to see him impose his will on other players.
While this may seem meaningless to some, it says something when a player can come through in the clutch for his country. The pressure of international competition can be too much for some players.
While it is all good and well to read about what Buchnevich has done to date, what are the scouts saying about him? Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com wrote a ranking of the Blueshirts’ top 10 prospects, and he had this to say about him:
He can handle the puck with ease and has good hands in his role as a playmaking forward. Sometimes compared to Alexander Semin, Buchnevich (6-1, 176) likely will spend one more season in the KHL, represent his country at the 2015 WJC and then make the jump to North America in 2015-16.
He also spoke to Gordie Clark, the Rangers’ head of player development, and Clark had this to say about the Blueshirts’ budding prospect:
‘He's a very highly skilled Russian forward who can play any three forward positions,’ Clark said. ‘He has skill, hands and good smarts. He's been working out in our summer camp [in North America] and made great strides from last summer. He's been one of our best forwards at training camp. He plays in a skilled league and will spend another season in the KHL before getting ready to go for a pro career.’
What type of player could Buchnevich become?
This is exactly what fans want to hear about Buchnevich at this point in his development. He has put on some weight, his offensive game has progressed, and his effort level is high. The fact that he is almost ready to make the jump to North America is also very promising.
The Rangers are hoping right now that Buchnevich can make an impact in North America over the next few years. The Rangers didn’t have a first-round pick in 2014, and as of right now, they won’t have a first-rounder in 2015 because of the Martin St. Louis trade.
Due to the first-round pick shortages, the Rangers have drafted players with a high ceiling in the later rounds with the hopes that they develop into bona fide NHL players.
There is still a lot of time before the drafting of Buchnevich can be graded, but at this point before the start of the 2014-15 NHL season, there is reason to believe he can turn into an exciting offensive player for the New York Rangers over the next few years.