Pavel Buchnevich had a solid campaign as a New York Ranger during the 2019-20 season.
At the conclusion of last season, the 25 year-old winger left many eager to see what was next for him, as he progressed under the new direction of head coach David Quinn. In 2018-19, he proved that he could thrive offensively in the right situations and play on the team’s top line. After the season, in July, he signed a $3.25 million, two-year contract extension with the Rangers, which heightened expectations for the next year. He was on track to either meet or exceed his career-best of 43 points, which was set in the 2017-18 season.
Performance This Season
As Tom Urtz Jr. noted at the beginning of the season, Buchnevich was off to a very promising start, being tied for second with most assists in the league in November. With the uncertainty of Chris Kreider’s future as a Ranger, it seemed that this was the season for Buchnevich to really show how he could be a defensive responsibility moving forward while building on his offensive play. Consistency was the overarching issue with the Russian skater’s game, Quinn speaking about it in February:
Sometimes you get the high rides, and you’re having a hell of a time, and then you’re waiting in line and waiting to get on the ride, and you’re getting frustrated and aggravated [...] He’s a good player. He’s a real good player, and he’s had a good year for us. And sometimes guys just need a little jolt. (Forbes)
His season was very temporarily put on pause when he was in a car accident with goalie Igor Shesterkin in Brooklyn, on February 23rd. Though he didn’t sustain any injuries, he missed two games before returning. At the time of his accident, he had played 61 games with a total of 37 points. About three weeks later, the NHL was paused due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Looking below the surface can give us more insights than his scoring can, starting with his Goals Above Replacement of 13.4 which was a career-best and extreme increase from last season’s 3.8. It ranked him third on the team, following Adam Fox and Artemiy Panarin. Numerous positive components went into his total GAR, including his even strength offense (9.4), even strength defense (.8), power play offense (1.5), and drawn penalties (1.6). Buchnevich’s 9.4 offensive component ranked sixth on the team and was also the best of his career.
As a playmaker, Buchnevich isn’t the most frequent shooter. Even though he didn’t outscore his previous highs in goals, and his shooting percentage dropped from 17.6% to 10.6%, he continued to be a playmaker on the KZB line. Due to the quality of his shot attempts, he earned the best individual expected goal rate of his career of 0.91 per 60. He scored at the highest rate of his career in all situations with 2.4 points per 60, and his second best 5-on-5 scoring rate of 2.03 per 60. While his shots reached the net at the highest rate, he didn’t attempt as many shots as he has in seasons past.
Despite not shooting as much, the Blueshirts were often driving offense with him on the ice. Though it’s not a perfect method, Corsi can be used as a proxy for puck possession. In 5-on-5 situations, the Rangers took a slight majority of the shots as evidenced by his 50.99 percent Corsi for. Their puck possession led to scoring chances, as they were expected to score 52.7 percent of the expected goal share.
In the weeks leading up to the NHL pause, Buch went on a seven-game point streak and was playing his best hockey. In the 68 games he played this season, he tallied up 46 points — 16 goals and 30 assists — while averaging 16 minutes and 56 seconds per game. During the three exhibition games the Rangers played against the Carolina Hurricanes after the NHL pause, Buch gained another two minutes and ten seconds for his average time on ice.
Grade: B+ | BSB Staff Average: B+
This season Buchnevich had moments where he stepped up and proved himself to be the highly talented player that the Rangers’ organization knows he can be. That’s why it was high praise which led to high grades for the 25 year-old. He set career highs for himself and found more consistency towards the end of the season. Buchnevich spoke of that success on Broadway and accredited it to “getting older and getting more experience.”
Now four years out of the KHL and experienced in the NHL, Buchnevich has progressed from where he started. He’s still more of a playmaker and less likely to take the shot when the opportunity arises. But if he could continue to work on his shooting, he’ll likely put the puck into the back of the net more frequently.
The more Buchnevich harnesses that feeling of comfort he now has in the NHL, the closer he should get to meeting those lofty expectations. As he explained to the New York Post earlier this summer, “I’m more focused, I don’t know, it’s probably from experience. I know my role.”
Perhaps next year at this time, we’ll be discussing a big contract for the winger after we’ve given him an A+ from his best season yet.
Data via Evolving-Hockey.com