The New York Rangers are going to need a big off-season after a disappointing five-game playoff run, and the first piece could be signing top prospect Pavel Buchnevich. The 21-year-old is reportedly nearing a deal with the Rangers following a 16-goal, 37-point season in the KHL.
The New York Rangers’ disappointing playoff performance will make this an interesting and important off-season for the Blueshirts, and GM Jeff Gorton and Co. don’t appear to be taking it slow when it comes to building for the 2016-17 season.
According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the Rangers are working toward an entry-level deal with prospect Pavel Buchnevich, who New York drafted in the third round, 75th overall, in 2013. Brooks reported that it’s not certain a deal is imminent as there are still some hurdles to clear, but added there remains the possibility a contract could be done “by the weekend.”
Getting Buchnevich, 21, under contract and to New York for next season would be a nice addition for the Rangers, who could use a young, up-and-coming prospect to freshen up their roster. It doesn’t hurt that Buchnevich is the best prospect currently in the Rangers’ system, either. He was ranked No. 1 among all New York prospects and 44th overall in THN’s Future Watch 2016 issue, up from 63rd in 2015.
Buchnevich will be expected to compete for a top-nine spot in New York at the very least, with the possibility of him coming in and slotting into the top-six next season. That’s a bigger possibility given the Rangers are not expected to bring back Eric Staal or Dominic Moore, according to Brooks.
Like many top Russian prospects, Buchnevich has competed in the KHL leading up to his potential move over to the NHL. This past season was his fourth full campaign in the KHL. In 58 games, Buchnevich scored 16 goals and 37 points, while adding another goal and three points in the post-season. That type of production for a youngster in the KHL, which is arguably the second-highest level of competition in the world, likely means he can be a 35- or 40-point player right out of the gate. The adjustment to the NHL doesn’t always pan out, though.
Artemi Panarin, 24, was especially effective for the Chicago Blackhawks after a couple of great seasons in the KHL, but Sergei Plotnikov, 25, fell flat in Pittsburgh before the Penguins dealt him to the Arizona Coyotes. Plotnikov registered 36 points in 56 games in his final KHL season before coming to the NHL, a similar total to Buchnevich’s, but managed only three assists in 45 games between Pittsburgh and Arizona. That said, Plotnikov scored five goals and 13 points in 45 games when he was a 20-year-old in the Russian league. Buchnevich far exceeded that production during his age-20 season.
One area where Buchnevich will need some work is in adding strength. The NHL may no longer be a land of giants, but Buchnevich is listed at 6-foot-1, 176 pounds, and the Rangers will likely hope he can add some bulk to his frame while maintaining his speed and skill. As Brooks reports, should the Rangers get Buchnevich under contract early in the off-season, the plan is to bring the Russian winger to New York to train and get used to life in the city before the regular season begins.