Where does Pavel Buchnevich fit in the lineup for next season?
Buchnevich is a top six forward and he must be in that role for the entire season. No more press box for him. Alain Vigneault needs to trust Buchnevich and let the kid work his way through any of his on-ice issues. Chances are, even with one full season of playing on North American ice, he may still need some time to adjust. It also didn’t help him last season that when he finally was developing some solid chemistry with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, Zibanejad went down with an injury and lines were shuffled as a result.
Buchnevich should already be penciled in to start the season with Zibanejad as his center and Kreider on the opposite wing. Those three showed flashes of what they could do when given time to gel. They all have great speed, great hands, good size, and keen offensive instincts. Not only will playing with Zibanejad help Buch but the opposite is true as well. Zibanejad has a lot riding on his shoulders now as he goes into next season as the de facto number one center for the Rangers. And by playing with someone he had good chemistry with, it will only help him in his quest to find the consistency that has eluded him in his career.
Heading into the season the Rangers top six forward corps should look like this barring any moves made to obtain another center:
Buchnevich – Zibanejad – Kreider
Nash – Hayes – Zuccarello
Does Buchnevich have a spot on either of the power play units? He has to. Someone with his kind of shot and creativity needs to be on one of the two units. Buchnevich should be a fixture on the right side of one of the power play units:
Possible Powerplay Unit 1
Zibanejad- Kreider – Buchnevich
Shattenkirk – Skjei
In this scenario, Zibanejad takes the faceoff and then shifts over to the left wing to give the Rangers two big right-handed shots on the left side of their powerplay. Kreider shifts to the middle after the faceoff and is the big body who blocks the goalie and causes havoc in front of the net while Brady Skjei and Buchnevich become one-timer options on the right side of the powerplay.
Two righties and two lefties with a big body causing trouble in the middle. Buchnevich should have no problem finding time and space with this unit. Notice how I keep the KZB line together even on the powerplay. With uncertainty hanging over the Rangers forward corps, familiarity will be key next season more than ever. If the KZB line gets their chemistry going early, there’s no reason not to keep them together for a powerplay unit. The only difference from 5v5 play is that Buchnevich moves permanently to the right wing on the powerplay so he can pull the trigger on his shots quickly since his stick blade will always be facing the net.
Does Buchnevich see penalty killing time? I don’t believe we will see this. He doesn’t play that type of game. Yes, he has speed like Michael Grabner, but he isn’t as sound defensively yet to have a spot on the penalty kill. There are other players who are more suited for the task at this point. Could Buchnevich eventually be counted on to kill penalties? Sure; but at this point in his career, I don’t see it.
With the Rangers newly revamped defense, most of the talk has naturally been about Kevin Shattenkirk and what he will bring to the team. But it is just as important to realize that players like Buchnevich will be counted on more with this new look forward group that must find a way to replace Derek Stepan’s usual 55-60 points. Look for Buchnevich to take a big step forward this season and cement himself as a top six forward. Oh and let’s hope we see more goals like these two:
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