There are Four Big Questions the New York Rangers will need to answer in 2020-21.
We are marching through our 2020-21 NHL Season Previews nicely and, with the puck set to drop on Wednesday, today we take a look at the New York Rangers.
It was an interesting 2019-20 season for the Blueshirts who took giant leaps in their maturation process, seeing tangible progress from some of their young stars while their marquee offseason addition in Artemi Panarin absolutely balled out with 95 points (32 G, 63 A) in 69 games.
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Mika Zibanejad continued to morph into an elite NHL center, Adam Fox carved out a stellar rookie year and phenom goalie Igor Shesterkin also made his long-awaited debut in North America, making the future look incredibly bright in New York.
There was a slight roadblock, of course, after the Rangers were absolutely dominated and swept by a bigger, more experienced and more ready Carolina Hurricanes team in the Best-of-Five Playoff series, making it a short and not very sweet return to the postseason for the Blueshirts.
However, everything happens for a reason and the bitter disappointment of an early and crushing exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs soon turned to sheer delight after the Rangers won the NHL Lottery and the chance to select generational talent Alexis Lafreniere in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Take the elite winger with the No.1 overall pick the New York Rangers did and, despite buying out franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist, it was another hugely successful offseason for the Original Six franchise as they continue to plot a return to the glory days.
Granted, there is still plenty of work to be done by the front office because this team is a legit contender, but they are heading in the right direction and it is an exciting time to be a Rangers fan right now.
So, on that note, let’s delve into the 4 Big Questions facing the New York Rangers in the 2020-21 NHL Season…
4. Is Pavel Buchnevich primed for a true breakout campaign?
Pavel Buchnevich appears to be on the cusp of fully unlocking his potential and transforming into one hell of a special player for the New York Rangers.
According to those present throughout Training Camp, the Russian, or “Captain Happy” as he is affectionally referred to as by Head Coach David Quinn, has really stood out and has been one of the best players on the ice for the Rangers.
Quinn has waxed lyrical about the forward which is a good sign given that the Head Coach has ridden him pretty hard in the past, leading to one of my favorite expressions “The Quinn Bin.”
However, there has been notable improvements in Buchnevich’s all-round game over the last year or so and the winger had a strong season in 2019-20, recording 46 points (16 G, 30 A) in 68 regular-season games while recording a new career-high in hits with 80.
Buchnevich really put his foot on the gas in the second-half of last year and showed real maturity in his all-round game, becoming the big, powerful and skilful two-way forward that the Rangers always hoped he would be after taking him with the 75th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
When he’s at his very best the 25-year-old plays hard along the boards, battles in the dirty areas, is strong with the puck and hard on the forecheck without it, and he also boasts a pretty deadly shot.
The trouble is that Buchnevich hasn’t always put it together but, after a strong finish to 2019-20 coupled with an outstanding Training Camp, the 2020-21 season could be the year that Pavel Buchnevich finally breaks out and establishes himself as consistent top-six forward for the New York Rangers.