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Rangers' Buchnevich believes he's ready for NHL

Russian forward, 21, opted to remain in KHL last season to get more experience, confidence

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Pavel Buchnevich's mood turned serious when he was asked if he could handle adjusting to the speed and physical nature of the NHL after three seasons playing in Russia.

Selected by the New York Rangers in the third round (No. 75) of the 2013 NHL Draft, Buchnevich made it clear he's ready for the challenges that await him in his first season in North America.

The 6-1, 176-pound left wing will need to go through an adjustment phase. He'll be playing on a smaller rink than the ones used in the Kontinental Hockey League. He must adapt to a more physical game with more speed and less time and space to make decisions and plays. He's also expected make the Rangers out of training camp, perhaps in a top-six role.

Meeting the media during the second day of Rangers development camp, Buchnevich's answer was succinct. He's ready and wholly capable of making his mark, and the journey starts right now.

"If I weren't sure, I wouldn't come here," Buchnevich said through an interpreter, Rangers director of European scouting Nickolai Bobrov.

Video: Pavel Buchnevich Speaks at Prospect Camp

Video courtesy of New York Rangers

A year ago, Buchnevich wasn't 100 percent convinced even after receiving an endorsement from Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark, who told him he was ready for the NHL.

But Buchnevich didn't think so, opting to play in the KHL another year. He returned to his hometown club, Severstal Cherepovets, and skated in 40 games before he was traded to SKA St. Petersburg in December. He had career highs in goals (16), assists (21) and points (37), helped St. Petersburg advance to the Western Conference Finals with a goal and two assists in 14 playoff games. He agreed to terms with the Rangers on a reported three-year, entry-level contract worth $925,000 per season on May 13.

"I felt I was getting a lot of ice time and I needed experience and I didn't feel I was ready. Now I feel better and more ready," the 21-year-old said. "I felt, obviously, the age was a bit different. Even at 20 it's still considered to be young. I felt I needed more time to get physically prepared in Cherepovets and then in SKA [St. Petersburg], and get more experience and get older.

"I think I'm not quite a goal-scorer, but I'm a thinking player, a cerebral player, and a playmaker."

Buchnevich had 37 goals and 87 points in 158 regular-season games, and 17 goals and 41 points in 31 playoff games while competing in the Russian junior league. Besides preparing to compete for a spot on the Rangers, Buchnevich must acclimate himself to a new country, surroundings, language and teammates. He will spend most of the summer in New York, then go home for 10 days before returning for training camp and to compete in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., Sept. 16-20.

"I'm focused on the present and on the summer, and getting in shape and getting ready for this type of hockey," Buchnevich said. "As far as the language barrier, all the guys are being very helpful. They either show by hands or help with the words. I'm living with another Russian, [defense prospect] Sergey Zborovskiy, and he's been very helpful as well."

Buchnevich played in two World Junior Championship tournaments, with three goals and 13 points in four games winning a silver medal with Russia in 2015.

"He's played three years at a high level in the KHL," Clark said. "He's played at the World Junior level two years against the best … those are all players in the World Junior (that are) going to enter the NHL. He's always been up there with all of them in his game. If he does a summer of training like an NHL hockey player, they're going to give him every chance. I always say give a guy a chance to prove he's not good enough."

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