GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Consider the first few months of the Rangers latest version of “Moscow on the Hudson” complete. For Pavel Buchnevich, now the competition and hard knocks only get tougher.
Over the years, a number of Russian-born players have pulled on the Blueshirts sweater, with varying degrees of success.
They include Alexei Kovalev, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Nemchinov and Alexander Karpovtsev — who in 1994 were the first Russians to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup — as well as Pavel Bure, Valeri Kamensky, Vladimir Malakhov, Artem Anisimov, Fedor Tyutin, Nikolai Zherdev and prospects Evgeny Grachev, Alexander Frolov, Fedor Federov and Enver Lisin.
This is Buchnevich’s time. The 21-year-old winger has had an eventful summer. He lived with a host family not far from here for seven weeks while he trained twice a day and practiced twice a week at Prentiss Hockey Performance in Fairfield County, Connecticut which boasts a long roster of NHL clients. And he is learning English without a steady tutor. “I have a phone app,” he said with a grin — and through a translator — on Thursday.
During a practice with other prospects before flying to the annual eight-team NHL prospects tournament in Traverse City, Michigan, which starts Friday, Buchnevich played right wing on a line centered by former Michigan grad Cristoval (Boo) Nieves and highly-touted Harvard left wing Jimmy Vesey. As in prospect camp in early July, his playmaking ability and quick shot release were apparent; the Rangers are counting on those skills to translate into a top-nine role this season.
Asked if this summer was much different than his previous ones, he answered with an emphatic “Da” (“Yes”) and continued through his translator, Nickolai Bobrov, the team’s director of European scouting: “I’m tired of practicing, I’ve got to start playing.”
Born in Cherepovets, whose economy is built around the steel industry, Buchnevich was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft. He played last year in the KHL, scoring 16 goals and 37 points in 58 games for Severstal and St. Petersburg SKA and signed an entry-level contract in May.
Off the ice, Buchnevich said he is “getting used to (North America) slowly . . . I lived with wonderful people, they talked to me a lot, they were very patient with me . . . The players have been very good, speaking slowly; I’m understanding a lot more (English) than I did when I first got here.”
On the ice, Buchnevich, who is 6-foot-2 and about 175 pounds, is making no predictions: “I just have to do what the team needs me to do,” he said. And as for his Traverse City debut against other NHL prospects, he added: “The only thing I know (about it) is what Chris Kreider told me: Don’t get into a fight because you never know who you’re fighting. ’’