In the last week, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault has tempered both his praise and criticism of veterans and young players as the staff whittles down the roster. That’s normal coach-speak during the preseason.
But unless something goes awry before Oct. 11, when opening-day rosters have to be submitted to the league, Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich, 21, appears to have done enough to make the team.
“I’ve liked him,” Vigneault said before Tuesday’s game against the Islanders at Barclays Center. “I think anybody that’s watched him closely sees that offensively he’s creating opportunities; he hasn’t finished, but he’s getting real Grade-A scoring opportunities. He’s been, in my estimation, poised on the power play. Defensively, he’s working extremely hard to come back and help and try and implement some of the things we’ve been working on. His English is better than he lets on. I’ve liked a lot of things I’ve seen from him. He seems like a very coachable young man and he’s certainly got a lot of upside.”
Buchnevich did not play Tuesday night, the fifth of six preseason games, which signals that the coaches have seen plenty. He likely will play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.
In 44 minutes over three games, the left wing, who played in the KHL last season, has one assist, nine shots on goal and is a plus-3. Selected in the third round of the 2013 entry draft (75th overall), Buchnevich recorded his assist against the Devils on Sept. 29. In his previous game against the Islanders, he had three shots on goal.
Buchnevich, who speaks to the media through an interpreter, spent a good part of the summer in the area. He stayed with a host family, improving his English with a phone app, and getting to know teammates. He trained at Prentiss Hockey Performance in Fairfield County, Connecticut. It may be paying off.
Notes & quotes: Jimmy Vesey was feeling no ill effects from Radko Gudas’ crushing hit from behind in Philadelphia, Vig neault said. “Players, when they go in the corners sometimes, they turn themselves. It’s a quick reaction from them and the opposition. I think he’ll learn from that, might do something different next time.” . . . Center Maxim Lapierre, 31, was released from his tryout. “When we compared his game to a couple of our younger guys, we felt that there wasn’t that much difference,” Vigneault said . . . Defensemen Mat Bodie, Tommy Hughes and Chris Summers and forward Chris Brown were waived. If they are not claimed by noon on Wednesday, they can report to Hartford of the AHL . . . Vigneault said left wing Marek Hrivik “has shown a steady progression. We’re giving him a very good opportunity here. He’s in the mix.”