New York Rangers Are Wasting Pavel Buchnevich’s Talent

Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images /

The New York Rangers usage of Pavel Buchnevich is questionable at best and deeply concerning

The New York Rangers are going through a bit of a transitional phase. This has brought some good things to the Blue Shirts. Brady Skjei has emerged as a top-four defenseman. A trade of Derek Stepan and a long overdue buyout of Dan Girardi. allowed the Rangers to finally address their blueline by signing coveted defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. But arguably the best thing to come from it has been forward Pavel Buchnevich.

For a long time, the Rangers have been looking for a difference maker on offense. And they’ve found one in Buchnevich. He ranks tied for third on the team in goals, fifth in assists, and third in points.

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By all accounts, Buchnevich is one of the Rangers best forwards. And it goes beyond production. No matter what metric you look at, Buchnevich is at worst one of the Rangers top four forwards. His expected goals for percentage is the best among his teammates. Yes, Buchnevich is sheltered a bit. But he produces consistently and tends to dominate when he’s on the ice. The Rangers are much better with him on the ice than they are without him.

So What’s The Issue?

The issue is that Buchnevich isn’t being utilized efficiently. He ranks seventh among Rangers in even strength ice time. If you include all situations, Buchnevich’s rank rises to sixth. Until recently, his deployment wasn’t that big of an issue. Buchnevich got pretty consistent playing time with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. And rightfully so, as the trio was extremely effective.

Until recently, you could argue Buchnevich should be getting more playing time, but at least he was getting top-six forward minutes on a pretty consistent basis. But in his last 12 games, he has gotten over 15:40 of ice time just three times. Against the Vegas Golden Knights, he got scratched. Admittedly, this came after Buchnevich had a weak game against the Arizona Coyotes.

Scratching a forward after a weak game isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sometimes it can be helpful. But the odd thing is, Buchnevich, one of the Rangers top forwards, appears to have a much shorter leash than other players. Most notably Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast.

Head coach Alain Vigneault deserves blame for this. And for the record, he didn’t give much of a reason why Buchnevich was scratched. The Rangers, despite ranking 13th in goals scored this season, have struggled to score at times. Entering their bye week, they have scored less than three goals in six of their last seven games.

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If Buchnevic’s mishandling was just a blip on the radar, it would be fine, relatively speaking. Even the best head coaches make mistakes and questionable decisions. But, as Rangers fans will tell you, this isn’t Alain’s first rodeo.

This isn’t the first time Vigneault has drawn criticism for not playing his best players. Rangers fans should be concerned about how Buchnevich is being deployed and how his head coach views him. He’s a guy who should be getting consistent minutes. But he’s not. It’s maddening enough to make one question if Vigneault is the right coach for a team whose best players are young.

All stats referenced are at even strength and, unless specified, are courtesy of Corsica and Natural Stat Trick.