Ask Gordie Clark, the Rangers Director of Player Personnel, questions about Russian forward Pavel Buchnevich and you will largely receive very measured answers about the player considered to be one of the organization's top prospects.
However it doesn't take long before Clark offers up what he really thinks of the player he helped the Rangers draft with the 75th overall pick in 2013.
"He's a highly intelligent player with a high-end skill set who thrives on high expectations," Clark said of Buchnevich, who signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers last Friday and will play in North America this upcoming season.
"He sees the ice incredibly well," Clark continued in an exclusive conversation with BlueshirtsUnited.com "Put him out there with other high-end players and he will make plays, he will score goals. Whether he's ready to do that at the NHL level right away, we'll find that out in training camp."
The Rangers had hoped to have Buchnevich under contract and playing either with the big club or with the Hartford Wolf Pack last season, but he did not believe he was quite ready to make the jump to North America at that time, and instead played another season back home in the KHL.
Buchnevich responded by recording career-highs in goals (16), assists (21) and points (37) this year while appearing in 40 games with his hometown Cherepovets team and another 18 with the top-end St. Petersburg squad following a late-season trade. He also appeared in 14 playoff contests with St. Petersburg.
Now after three full seasons in the KHL, where he has largely been one of the youngest players in the league each year, Buchnevich is ready to come and battle for a spot on the New York Rangers.
"He always said he was going to come over when he was ready to play in the NHL," Clark explained. "That time is now. That trade to St. Petersburg was a great character builder for him and great preparation for him because he went from being one of the best players on a lower-level team to a team full of high-end talent that is always challenging for a championship and he had to earn his position there--which he did. That will serve him well, too, coming over here."
Clark emphasized that Buchnevich is a very strong-minded and proud person, one who was definite in his belief that he would only sign with the Rangers when he believed he was ready to play in the NHL, and one who is driven to become the first Cherepovets-born player to play in the National Hockey League.
"There has never been an NHL player from Cherepovets, Russia, and in his translations to me he said the thing that really pushes him is that he wants to be the first to do so," offered Clark. "And he had a plan. He really believed that he could play right away in the KHL--a men's league, not a junior league--and he made it. He wanted it and he made it. That's an example of the type kid and type talent he is."
As an 18 year-old in 2013-14 Buchnevich appeared in 40 KHL games and scored seven goals and totaled 18 points. The following year he scored 13 goals and reached 30 points in 48 games before establishing career-high numbers across the board this past season with Cherepovets and St. Petersburg. Not only was the youngster able to compete with much older and more experienced teammates and opponents in Russia, he did so with a flair that comes in part with tremendous confidence and an impressive natural skill set.
Buchnevich also excelled while representing his country in the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championships. He recorded 13 points (3-10-13) in 14 games over the two tournaments; and in 2015 he helped Russia capture the silver medal while wearing a letter on his jersey.
"He's had high expectations placed on him over there and produced," Clark said of Buchnevich. "There are some players who like having those high expectations, they thrive in them, and he's one of them."
That is another reason why Clark is confident Buchnevich will be successful in North America and ultimately with the Rangers. Clark, though, does concede that the 6-foot-2, 176-pound Russian will need to get stronger and will need to adapt to playing on a smaller ice-surface, while also learning a new language and living in a foreign country.
While that is a lot for a 21 year-old to contend with, Clark is confident that Buchnevich is up to that task and, after a summer of preparing himself in New York, the extremely-talented and charismatic Buchnevich should be right in the mix battling for a roster spot on the Rangers during training camp.
"He's coming over and he's going to have a real good chance at being able to try and be a regular player on the New York Rangers next year," Clark stated. "I've watched him grow these past few years and there's a level of excitement for me now that he's coming over to watch him and hear him say that he's ready to come over and give it a shot."