New York Rangers: Solving the enigma of Pavel Buchnevich

The New York Rangers are a rebuilding team who have been giving chances to young players. This makes their treatment of Pavel Buchnevich baffling, to say the least. 

It’s not a secret the New York Rangers are focused on building on the future rather than winning games now. They are, after all, a rebuilding team. When you rebuild, you focus on making your lineup younger. This is accomplished by giving chances to young players and ushering out older ones.

For the most part, the Rangers have done well at this. Six of their 10 players who average the most time on ice (excluding goalies) are under 27 years old. 16 of their 30 players this season are 25 years old or younger. Which makes the handling of talented young forward Pavel Buchnevich quite puzzling.

At 23 years old, he’s someone the Rangers should be keeping in the lineup regularly. Instead, Buchnevich has only played in 32 of their 49 games so far. Though he missed about a month due to an injury in November, three of them have been as a healthy scratch. That, frankly, is three times too many.

Head coach David Quinn has said it’s because he has bad habits in his game. The whole point of playing young players is so they can work through these issues. It’s unknown which bad habits Quin is talking about, but whatever they are, Buchnevich has been productive despite them.

After putting up 43 points in 74 games in 2017-18, he has 15 points in 32 games. Most of this dropoff can be attributed to his inconsistent role with the team and his drop in average time on ice from 15:01 last season to 14:09. Buchnevich has had a revolving door of linemates, which hurts because he doesn’t really get chemistry with anyone.

Quinn was brought to help establish a culture of accountability like he did in college. If Buchnevich is getting healthy scratched for his bad habits, why aren’t other players? Take, for example, Marc Staal. Comparing defensemen to forwards isn’t exactly fair, but he’s been a repeat offender and has made some scratchable mistakes. Yet Staal hasn’t missed a game this year.

The baffling thing is, until his recent injury, the Rangers allowed Brett Howden to work through his struggles. And those struggles have been greater than Buchnevich’s. Why are the Rangers holding one young player accountable and not another?

Buchnevich is not alone. Defenseman Tony DeAngelo has also been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions. He has flaws, but despite them, he’s arguably been their best offensive defenseman. DeAngelo and Buchnevich are the kinds of players the Rangers should be playing regularly. Instead, they’re sitting in the press box more times than they should be.

This isn’t the first coaching staff to misuse Buchnevich. It’s fair to question what his NHL ceiling is at this point. This will make the Rangers’ negotiations with him this summer especially difficult. And they have no one to blame except for themselves.