Devils at Rangers … It’s Go Time! … Pirri, Buchnevich may be battling for the same job


NEW YORK – It’s a common theme for every team every training camp: Competition for jobs.

Often, that’s just wishful thinking.

For the deeper (not to mention faster) Rangers, it’s for real, especially among the “bottom” four forward positions.

When you look at it, barring a trade or injury, the top eight are pretty much set: Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey. Throw Jesper Fast in that group as well, and we all know that coach Alain Vigneault thinks of Fast as a guy who can play on any line, one through four.

After that is a cast of thousands, including injured Oscar Lindberg, who hopes to return from hip surgery in November: rookie Pavel Buchnevich, Michael Grabner, Josh Jooris, Nathan Gerbe, Tanner Glass, tryout Max Lapierre, Mark Hrivik, a bunch of prospects who are probably headed for Hartford no matter what, and the team’s most recent addition, Brandon Pirri.

Grabner, Fast. Lindberg, Gerbe, Glass, Lapierre, Hrivik can all play a prototypical fourth-line game, which is to get in on the forecheck, be good defensively, and kill penalties.

Pirri and Buchnevich do not fit that identity. Long story short, it appears in this early going that Pirri and Buchnevich are vying for the same, and only available spot on one of the top three lines. So both were in the lineup, on the same line, for a second straight preseason game against the Devils Thursday, Buchnevich away from his training camp linemates Zibanejad and Kreider, Pirri moving from the wing to get Vigneault a look at him as a center. Vigneault said that Pirri is suited for a top-nine role, or if not that, as a 13th forward.

Thus this might be the most interesting of the job battles, and the most difficult of the decisions Vigneault and his staff will have to make.

Pirri scored a sniper’s goal in Tuesday’s win over the Islanders, and that’s what he does. He’s a skater who likes to fire it, and has a tremendous shot, but not a reputation as a player who is good away from the puck. Buchnevich, the 21-year-old top prospect, has tremendous skills, not a lot of strength, and his play away from the puck will be a big question until he proves otherwise.

It’s arguable whether Pirri, right now at 25 and on his fourth NHL team, is a more ready NHL player than the raw, but high ceiling of Buchnevich.

Pirri scored a sniper’s goal Tuesday against the Islanders.

“His shot, his goal, that was a major-league shot there,” Vigneault said. “A great release, and I liked what I saw from him. He seems like a real versatile player, which is a plus. He can play more than one position. I like his skill set and hopefully he will continue to show that.”

Vigneault also joked that it’s great that a player can play multiple positions, “as long as you can play any of those positions well.”

“That’s the type of player I am,” Pirri said. “There’s not a lot of room out there. It’s the NHL and things move fast. So if you’re thinking shoot-first there’s either a rebound or it’s going to go in or you’re going to create something.”

Vigneault compared his situation and opportunity to that of Benoit Pouliot, who had bounced around, came to the Rangers and had a big season, earning a long-term contract with Edmonton as a free agent. It’s getting close to a last opportunity for Pirri.

And a first for Buchnevich.


In addition to the Buchnevich-Pirri battle, the most intriguing thing to me tonight is the debut of Jimmy Vesey, who has played — and played well throughout camp — with the highly motivated Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes, who did some serious training this summer and has lost 10-15 pounds.

Tonight’s probable lineup:
Jimmy Vesey-Kevin Hayes-Rick Nash
devilsNathan Gerbe-Brandon Pirri-Pavel Buchnevich
Michael Grabner-Marek Hrivik-Jesper Fast
Adam Tambellini-Max Lapierre-Nicklas Jensen
Nick Holden-Kevin Klein
Ryan Graves-Chris Summers
John Gilmour-Dylan McIlrath
Antti Raanta
Mackenzie Skapski.

Click here to go to @RangersReport on Twitter.

Photo by Andy Marlin/USA Today.



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  1. Slatsko Folkyerself on

    Alex Trebeck: “The Category is New York Rangers. For $200 the answer is… Glen Sather.”
    Contestant: “Who screwed up the Rangers for 16 years and counting?…”
    Alex Trebeck: “Correct!”

  2. I hope this Pirri kid sticks, for E3’s sake. Pretty much a brassard doppelgänger. Has to work on his post goal hugs but still…

  3. Thanks Carp. I just went back and watched that breakaway and powerplay. Wedgewood robbed Vesey then Buchnevich twice.

  4. That was a hell of a shorthanded chance at the end off the post, good speed and anticipation…who’s #41?

  5. Bdl
    Thanks for your reply last thread. I still think he is the best 4th line centre right now. Just like the video at the top said, i think the interesting forward battles are for the #9 spot and 4th line centre. I think 2/3 of the 4th line is set with grabner and lindberg once healthy.

  6. Problem with the Buch/Pirri situation is that we can’t let Buch reach whatever the game threshold is in AHL that allows him to go to the KHL as not sure he will ever come back if that happens and even if he does it further delays his development by going back to Russia. So I’m fine with Buch starting in Hartford if needs some more work, but have to think of the longterm future of the team and Buch. Best case scenario is Pirri has a good year on the 3rd line and then he cashes out elsewhere just like Benoit. So I’d keep him as the spare forward, spelling anyone who is struggling in the top 9 or who needs a break and then put him on the 4th line and pp against certain teams.

  7. McTruck has a plenty of minutes, but it only expose more his deficiencies, like questionable positioning and slowness in moves and decisions making. I really root for kid, but don’t like what I see so far, quite honestly..

  8. I’d have to see him take a shipload of faceoffs, but I might not hate Pirri as the 4C/2nd PP to start the season. The old me wants a 4th line that crunches but the new me wants one that scores. Keep Buch on the 3rd and sort it all out once Lindberg returns.

  9. Then at some point they have to keep him on the NHL roster for good and it doesnt make much sense if he were just a healthy scratch

  10. I guess we’re assuming no injuries with the lineup talk. Not just start of season but throughout. Hey there’s a first time for everything.

  11. It’s going to be hard not to take Pirri in. From other hand, I try hard, but not seeing those proverbial flashes of brilliance from Buch (which I kind of expected). Vesey is obviously good and will be better for sure. Book it.

  12. Yea i think some time in hartford could be good for him, Carp. 4EVER, let’s not forget that Pirri has been given away for scraps or nothing by 3 teams already so we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves with him

  13. Most complete Ranger team I’ve seen in many years. They have more than 9 top six players. Both Pirri & Buchy will make the team as the latter has far too much talent. The deepest and fastest Ranger team I’ve seen in years. Only question would be defense.

  14. Gnasher still constantly picking himself up from in front of the opposing net with no penalties, meanwhile the next time we knock someone over at our own net will be the first. Picky, picky, I know. Early yet.

  15. V-easey impressive driving the net. The guy who hit him (WcWilliam?) should have been tossed from the game.

  16. Gerber looks ridiculous, he looks like a tiny child, and is not that fast either. Hrivik and Lapierre are way better options and much more versatile. Get rid of Gerbe!

    Hayes, still soft and slow, and his idiotic passes are not working. Trade him.

    Vesey is impressive. Buchnevich other than 1 good shot which almost scored, was nothing special again. I would look to trade him.

    Grabner is truly fast.

    Hrivik and Fast are great at cycling and working the boards.

    Not sure if Jensen has much future here, I would look to trade him.

  17. Sens could probably use a forward or 2 and we have serious surplus, we should make a deal and get some late round pick or 2.

  18. Derbils are a mess but NYR made them look particularly bad. Could have been 7 goals against.
    VC goes right to the net and gets himself and great position
    Graves a little robotic but has good potential.
    McDiesel gets better as game goes on particularly impressed with some outlet passes in second half of game.
    Pirriwinkle lets it rip and sounds like AV has some man love for him already
    Haze still playing with himself too much with the dangle

  19. both Pirri and Vesey are better than Buchnevich. Try to trade Buchnevich to Ottawa for a 1st rounder.

    Hayes helped us get Vesey, now we can dump Hayes in a trade.

    We need to start making moves or end up losing a bunch of good players on waivers for nothing.

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