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Pavel Buchnevich and His Russian Friends

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Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Six Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last May, I wrote about what to expect from a promising Russian prospect that you might have heard of by comparing him to some of his contemporaries when they were still mysterious, young prospects. I looked into not only what made Pavel Buchnevich such a tantalizing prospect, but also how he compared to similar Russian forwards – Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Artemi Panarin – using their production in the KHL and adjusting it using a NHL equivalency statistic.

For the tl;dr crowd, Buchnevich compared favorably to those big names; putting up numbers that were close, if not exactly as good as Tarasenko and Kuznetsov in their 18-20 year old seasons in the KHL, while posting almost identical numbers to Artemi Panarin during his years in Russia at the same age. Now, with Buchnevich’s first NHL season in the books, I figured it would be a good time to go back and look at how Pavel’s first season stacked up against the same three Russian forwards.

Before we begin, a couple of notes: to start, Tarasenko’s first NHL season was the lockout shortened 48 game season in 2013-14; secondly, Artemi Panarin’s rookie season was also his age 24 season and he had more KHL experience than any of the other three Russian forwards before his NHL debut; and lastly, Kuznetsov’s first taste of NHL action was 17 games.

(All numbers courtesy of Corsica.Hockey and Hockey-Reference.com)

Let’s quickly break down what we’re looking at in the image above. As you can see; Buchnevich, Kuznetsov, and Tarasenko all had similar production in their first NHL seasons with Buchnevich outscoring Tarasenko both in all situations and at 5-on-5. I think the interesting thing here is the underlying numbers. When looking at the scoring chance and expected goal numbers, you can see that Buchnevich’s expected goals numbers exceeded everyone except Tarasenko – however, even then Buchnevich had better scoring chance numbers.

Now to address the elephant in the room; Artemi Panarin.

Panarian’s 2015-16 was pretty insane, especially for a 24 year old rookie and while the Bread Man clearly out produced the other three, his underlying numbers were rather pedestrian – especially considering he averaged almost 5 minutes more ice time and had 75% of his zone starts in the offensive zone. Translation? Panarin had a greater opportunity to create offense, especially while playing with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane for most of that time.

So, what should we take away from all of this? Well, as we know, Buchnevich missed a lot of time because of his back issues and he spent the 2nd half of the season either buried in the lineup, a healthy scratch, or bounced up to the 1st line only to get demoted mid game. Even with all of this pinballing around, Buchnevich still managed to put up numbers that still compare favorably to some of the best Russian talent in the game today. With some better management, Buchnevich could be a rather important piece to the Rangers offense for the years to come.

Also, Pavel Buchnevich did this this season:

He is a shining beacon of hope in these dark, dismal times.