GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers prospect Pavel Buchnevich is one step closer to realizing his dream of playing in the NHL.
Buchnevich, selected in the third round (No. 75) of the 2013 NHL Draft, will play in his first preseason game against the New York Islanders on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, but he isn't getting ahead of himself.
"First of all, it's very important just to make the team," the 21-year-old Russian said through an interpreter after practice Monday. "That's what I'm thinking about. To be useful to the team and to help the team win."
Buchnevich signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Rangers in May after his season in the Kontinental Hockey League ended. He had 16 goals and 21 assists in 58 games for Severstal and SKA St. Petersburg last season. Buchnevich took part in development camp in July and the Traverse City Tournament over the weekend. He's now living in New York and brushing up on his English, which hasn't gone unnoticed by some teammates.
"It would be easy for him to just hang out with a couple of the other Russian guys that are in camp and speak Russian the whole time but he's living with a host family this summer that's only spoken English so he's making a real commitment," forward Chris Kreider, who will be on a line with Buchnevich against the Islanders, said.
Video: Pavel Buchnevich on the first day of training camp
The line of Buchnevich, Kreider and center Mika Zibanejad has been effective early on in camp despite the language barrier and will be intact Tuesday.
"To be honest, it was difficult [early on]," Buchnevich said. "Mostly because everyone speaks English and I'm trying to understand it, but I don't understand everything yet. It's improved a little bit but I am very happy my teammates are helping me out, Mika especially. Every time I have a question, I go to him.
"I like playing with them very much. We'll see how the game goes. I'll try not to be nervous."
Learning a new language may not be going as fast as he'd like, but Buchnevich's progress on ice has been impressive.
"Willingness to learn," Kreider said. "He came here and he didn't speak a lick ...he's conversational at least. His English is getting a lot better and he's asking a lot of questions on the ice. He wants to get better and he wants to be here. In terms of his game, he has a ton of skill, he sees the ice really well."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the young prospect has been doing all the right things.
"From what I saw at development camp and what I'm seeing now, you can tell the potential is there," Vigneault said. "It's up to him now, with our help, to help him become the best player that he can be. His skill set, being able to make plays in those small areas, being able to skate and move the puck and find open players. That line has made some highly skilled plays.
"There's been a lot of talk about this young man for a long time because of the upside. There is upside there so we have to help him figure it out and help him come along."
Video: Vigneault on Buchnevich, impressions from camp
In terms of his ability, Zibanejad said Buchnevich was easy to play with.
"He is really skilled," Zibanejad said. "He can pass the puck pretty well and is fun to play with. He has a lot of speed. It's the same thing with Kreider, so it's a good combination. [Buchnevich is] a smart guy out there when it comes to playing hockey. He knows how to play so I think [he just needs] some little directions."
Zibanejad also will be making his Rangers debut Tuesday. He was acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators for center Derick Brassard and a 2018 draft pick on July 18.
"I'm really excited," Zibanejad said. "For now, it's one of those things where you really want to start off on the right foot and just get into it and start with a good impression. That's what you are hoping for."
The Rangers have a plethora of forwards, and, although it's still early, Vigneault gave the line praise.
"There's a high level of skill and speed," he said. "I've liked how that line has looked so far. You have to understand we have a young player that has a tremendous amount of upside but we've got to help him with the process, and help him with the language."
Zibanejad agreed that the transition to New York has been made easier playing with Kreider and Buchnevich.
"It's been good," Zibanejad said. "I think we've been trying to communicate a lot and get into the same mindset, the same thoughts I guess and it's been working out. It's been good so far in practice and we'll see how it is in the game [Tuesday].
"It doesn't really matter who I play with. I think that I'll enjoy playing with whoever it might be. You have to earn your minutes. Nothing is given to you."
Playing Kreider with two newcomers was a decision that Vigneault said he felt would benefit all three players.
"Kreider has become a veteran player on our team and I'm confident it's going to help those two make the adjustment," he said.
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forwards Derek Stepan and J.T. Miller were at the Rangers practice facility Monday following their return from the World Cup of Hockey 2016, although they did not take the ice.
McDonagh had two goals in three games in the preliminary round for Team USA which went 0-3-0. Stepan had an assist in three games for Team USA. Miller, who was on team North America (2-1-0), played in one game and didn't have a point.
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"All did light off-ice workouts," Vigneault said. "All three are going to skate [Tuesday] morning with the injured players [prior to the preseason game]. They will be officially rejoining the group on Wednesday. They won't play on Thursday."
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who helped Team Sweden (2-0-1, Group B winner) reach the semifinal before it was eliminated in a 3-2 overtime loss to Team Europe Sunday, will practice this weekend.
"I also talked with Hank yesterday," Vigneault said. "He is coming back today. He is going to come in tomorrow to talk to the guys quickly but I gave him off until Saturday."
Lundqvist made 28 saves Sunday and was 1-1-2 with a 2.25 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and one shutout.
The Rangers had five players participating at the World Cup. The other is forward Mats Zuccarello of Team Europe. He has a goal and three assists in four games and will return to the Rangers following the World Cup best-of-3 final against Team Canada, which begins Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports).