The New York Rangers are making a late-season push and one of their key players on this run has been Pavel Buchnevich. The winger provided the Blueshirts with a boost by scoring a hat trick in their win against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. He has developed into a key player and the Rangers will need him to continue to play well to have a shot at making the postseason.
Buchnevich’s Play Entering This Season
After playing well down the stretch in the 2018-19 season, Buchnevich proved to be an important player for the Rangers and played on their top line last season. He has steadily improved since his 2016-17 rookie season. He entered the NHL known as an offensive player, but he has gotten stronger and smarter to become an effective all-around player.
In addition to his improved defensive play, Buchnevich has also improved offensively and his production has increased in each of his seasons. Last season he set a career-high with 46 points in just 68 games before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He had 16 goals and would’ve had a chance to surpass his career-high in goals (21 during the 2018-19 season) had it been a normal 82-game season.
Though Buchnevich played very well last season, there were a few stretches of games when he wasn’t very noticeable and didn’t produce much offensively. He also benefitted from the excellent play of his center, Mika Zibanejad, who had a breakout season.
Buchnevich’s Play This Season
This season, Buchnevich has been one of New York’s most consistent players, which has been one of the keys to his breakout season. He has produced consistently despite having both of his linemates, Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, go through long slumps.
Buchnevich has 19 goals, 21 assists and is plus-13 in 44 games this season. He is tied for the most goals on the team with Kreider even though he doesn’t play on New York’s first power-play unit and he has just one power-play goal this season.
Besides his stellar play at even strength, Buchnevich has become one of the Rangers’ best penalty killers. He uses his long reach to deflect shots and passes and has developed chemistry killing penalties alongside Zibanejad. Both players are dangerous while shorthanded and Buchnevich leads the Blueshirts with three shorthanded goals this season.
Buchnevich, who rarely killed penalties prior to this season has been a big part of New York’s dramatic improvement on the penalty kill. Last season the Rangers killed just 77.4 of penalties, which was the ninth-worst in the NHL. This year they have killed 85.1 percent of penalties, which is the third-best in the league.
The Rangers have won 13 of their last 19 games and during that span, Buchnevich has 12 goals and eight assists, including his hat trick against the rival Devils. He has been the Blueshirts’ second best winger after Artemi Panarin and has had the most consistent season of his career.
While the Rangers have played well lately, they have faced a lot of adversity this season, with both Panarin and Igor Shesterkin out for extended periods of time. Additionally, many players, especially some of the young forwards, struggled early on but have gotten better late in the season. However, in a season filled with ups and downs, Buchnevich has played well throughout and should continue to be a player the Rangers can rely on down the stretch.
Buchnevich will become a restricted free agent when the season ends and the Rangers will have to decide whether they should sign him to a long-term or short-term deal. Brendan Smith’s contract will expire after this season and the cap hit of Kevin Shattenkirk’s buyout will be significantly lower next season than this one, so New York should have a bit more salary-cap flexibility than last offseason.
One thing that has become very clear is that Buchnevich is very important to the Rangers. He just turned 26-years-old, has become very good defensively and is producing just under one point per game this season. He was already a good player, but this has been a breakout season and his ability to consistently play at a high level this season has been crucial for the Rangers.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.