Pavel Buchnevich ended the 2017-18 season with 14 goals and 29 assists for 43 points in 74 games played. He was fourth in team scoring, finishing with one fewer point than Kevin Hayes in two fewer games played. This was Buchnevich’s sophomore season, and statistically he set a bunch of career highs in raw totals.
For a reel of his greatest plays, check this video put together by Zach Ellenthal.
It is hard to evaluate Buchnevich’s season because of how he was used, and it will be nice to see the opportunities he gets moving forward with Alain Vigneault out of the picture. Buchnevich actually made some interesting comments in an interview recently, which are included below via Google Translate.
“I looked carefully at your club after you suddenly decided to “reboot” and you were removed all the tasks for the season.” (On line combinations after the letter was released)
We began to play strange. The combinations changed daily, sometimes it seemed to me that they were created in a random way, as the cards from the deck get out.
“I still do not understand how to evaluate your season. It seems to me that you have become more confident, but the playing time has not increased.” Interviewer was confused because confidence level seemed to grow but ice time didn’t reflect that
“Because everything depends on my confidence. When you do not think that the error will lead to consequences in the form of a reduction in playing time, then it is much easier for me. But everything turned out differently. A couple of matches you are doing well, in the third you do not show yourself and instantly find yourself in the fourth link with a five-minute playing time. It’s hard. Moreover, you are still told, they say, where are your qualities, show me. And you’re doing ten minutes with the majority on the ice.
On relationship with Alain Vigneault
Yes, he did not talk to the players. Something to me at the meetings talked about the “fight for the puck”, but that’s all. Once I was on the rostrum, although I did not understand the reason. There was a strange moment. If the team conceded, then in the third period I played a lot. And if she won, then all the time I sat on the bench
These comments confirm some things that were assumed about AV. Line combinations being wacky, his communication (or lack there) with players and insights into his relationships with players, and Buchnevich getting lost on the bench. They certainly add some context to the performance of players and suggest that under a new coach, there is room for some serious growth.
This is not to say that there were periods in which Buchnevich was off his game, but he certainly wasn’t used to his potential — which was evident to those watching hockey outside the New York market.
For the people advocating for Vigneault: his starting goalies in the last 10 years were Luongo, Schneider, and The King. That will give any coach a base level of success. NYR has been a mess in recent years and his use of certain players (Buchnevich) is troubling. Stay away.— Matchsticks&Gasoline (@MatchsticksCGY) April 18, 2018
This year, a number of stories were posted in this space detailing the plight of the budding youngster, and there’s no need to rehash them all in great detail. This particular story though, was written prior to the game that may have saved Vigneault’s job for the season.
For the majority of the season, Buchnevich didn’t receive a ton of ice time, and it was only after the team announced their rebuild that he saw an increase in playing time. In his first 50 games played, Buchnevich averaged 14:42 a game and tallied 32 points (0.64 P/GP); 20 of those points were scored at even strength. His 5v5 ATOI was 11:10 a game which was 20th among Rangers skaters and 13th among forwards per Natural Stat Trick.
Buchnevich returned after missing seven games due to a concussion on February 17; from that point on he averaged 15:41 a game, which was nearly a minute more a game than he was skating before.
Interestingly enough, this increase was enough to bump Buchnevich to finish the year averaging 15:01 a game. Had he not seen this surge he’d have finished under that, and the perception of his season probably would have been a little different.
Buchnevich would have finished ahead of Alexander Kerfoot and just behind Jake DeBrusk, which wouldn’t have been too bad. It was also impressive to see that James van Riemsdyk nearly scored 40 goals and 60 points while playing under 15:00 a game.
After returning from his concussion Buchnevich tallied 11 points in 24 games which equates to 0.46 points per game. During this span he averaged 12:40 a game 5v5, which was 22nd among Rangers skaters and 11th among forwards.
The offensive drop of 0.18 points per game was disappointing, but it must be considered that at this point the Rangers turned over pieces on their roster and Buchnevich was skating in the bottom six with Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey.
There were also some stretches where David Desharnais was on that line in place of Namestnikov, and it is fair to say that those combos weren’t the most conducive for offensive success. There is also the fact that Buchnevich was getting back up to speed after returning from his concussion, which likely played a role in his overall effectiveness.
When evaluating his season the best way to look at Buchnevich is his full season stats, and comparing them to his peers 5v5.
As you can see in the chart, Buchnevich was third on the team in points per 60, he was third in primary points per 60, fifth in Rel CF%, and fourth in Rel GF%. Please note these charts exclude acquired and traded players because Corsica includes their full season totals. Had they been included you’d see Ryan Spooner and Rick Nash bumping some of these players down.
The takeaway here is that at age 22, Buchnevich is making the most of his ice time, picking up points and faring pretty well from a possession and goals perspective. This isn’t a situation of him completely dining out on the power play, although that is an area he has had success in. The same concepts I pointed out in my Kevin Hayes dissertation apply here, primarily the element of time on ice and production.
On a team that struggled to possess the puck, Buchnevich nearly broke even. He wasn’t given a lot of ice time, but managed to finish among the team leaders in points and primary points. The Rangers were also better as a team when Buchnevich was on the ice — dispelling the narrative of him being a lazy player, that many Russian players are characterized to be.
This chart shows a number of things, but one of the things that is important to point out is how worse the Rangers were with Buchnevich off the ice. In terms of shot metrics, Buchnevich takes the team from bad (-6.0) to almost even (-1.7); in terms of goals the team was -4.3 with him off the ice and +2.4 with him on — that’s a net differential of 6.7 goals per hour.
There was also this idea that he was a “defensive liability” which couldn’t have been any further from the truth. During the entire season he was on the ice for 31 goals against 5v5, and his GA/60 was 2.11 which was tied for second on the Rangers with Marc Staal and trailing Chris Kreider ‘s team-leading rate of 2.08 per 60. He also was one of four Rangers to end the season with a positive 5v5 goal differential, and he was tied for second with Hayes at +3.
Buchnevich’s sophomore season could have been a little bit better. He got off to a solid start and it looked like he was going to make a big push for 50+ points. Also, he managed to play 74 games which was a big step from the 41 he appeared in the year before. Buchnevich was a team leader offensively and defensively, and is one of the top candidates to benefit from the firing of Alain Vigneault.
The 2018-19 campaign will be Buchnevich’s age 23 season, but more importantly the last year on his entry level contract. The Rangers should push Buchnevich to the limit and see how his responds, because they need to know what type of player they have so they can plan for his next contract accordingly. Based on how things went in 2017-18, the Rangers missed an opportunity to evaluate Buchnevich properly. Once things got bad they should have been leaning on him more to see if he’d bend or break.
How Buchnevich performs in 2018-19 will determine his future, and the direction the Rangers go in as they set up the pieces for future Stanley Cup contention.