The mystery around Pavel Buchnevich’s back issues

Buchnevich (USATSI)

November 12th, 2016 in Calgary, Russian rookie sensation scored a beauty one-timer goal in a Rangers rout. That was the last time we saw Pavel Buchnevich and are still waiting for his return.

Lingering Back Issues

“We feel that with what’s being done, there will be no issues in 2 or 3 weeks.” Those are the now perplexing words of head coach, Alain Vigneault on November 21st. We are now 5 weeks and 5 days since that statement with no definitive return date for Buchnevich.

So what was done after an MRI revealed no structural damage to the young forwards back? According to an article in the NY Daily News, Buchnevich was going through some core strengthening rehab. So either it didn’t work as they hoped, or they are being overly cautious with their prized prospect. In fairness, it could be both.

The only facts we do know is that Buchnevich had a slight bulging disc in his back and he hasn’t played in over a month.

What Caused the Issue

According to AV in the same Daily News article, it sounded like a conditioning issue. “Now, like any young player, he needs to develop physically. He needs to develop his upper body, his lower body, his core strength. Right now it’s especially his core strength because of the back issues. Anybody that’s had back issues knows that if you strengthen the core usually there’s a good chance you’ll feel all right, and Pavel’s the same way right now.” 

What AV admitted when asked what exactly caused it, he said he didn’t know. So what could be the leading factor for this back problem that has plagued Buchnevich since the start of the season? If you recall, he missed 5 games in October as well.

Does anyone remember this photo from prospect camp in September?

Buchnevich (NYR)

Scrawny isn’t he? Well here’s a recent picture from @devine_don taken at MSG on 12/23/16.

@devine_don with Buchnevich 12.23.16

In the above photo it is apparent that Buchnevich has “bulked” up since camp and it is that fast weight gain that is the likely culprit for his issues. While one is a photo in a tee shirt and the other in a suit, you can’t deny the facial difference that weight gain also causes.

Buchnevich weight gain Sept-Dec 2016d

How Much Weight and How Quickly

Hockey’s Future had Pavel Buchnevich listed at 157 pounds around 2012/2013 before the Rangers drafted him. At the time he was a kid of about 17 years old and coming of age. In his last season in the KHL, he was listed at 80 kilograms which is about 173 pounds. In the photo taken at prospects camp, Buchnevich (who also had offseason elbow surgery) looked every bit of that 173 pounds.

Today, the official site of the NY Rangers lists him at 193 pounds, and in the recent photo above, I believe it’s more. So here we have a 21 year old prized prospect putting on 20 pounds in probably less than 2 months to start the NHL season.

Who made that decision? Did Pavel do it on his own or did the Rangers oversee it? I ask because we are talking about one of the organization’s most highly touted scoring forwards in a decade and he’s already missed 6 plus weeks of this hockey season.

Impact of Weight Gain

According to the Southeastern Spine Institute:

Another [weight] problem that can lead to back pain occurs in your lower back. Weight gain in your abdomen forces your pelvis to slant forward. It’s under a tremendous strain, trying to carry your weight. Because your pelvis is pulled to the front, your lower back curves forward too. The graceful arch in a normal lower back becomes more rounded, which puts more pressure on the nerves, leading to back pain.

This sounds like what’s ailing Pavel. Hockey players are hunched over most of the time they are playing. Their bodies twist violently when taking shots or when being hit on the ice. It’s a lot of strain on the lower back.

So Is Weight Gain the Culprit?

When you add the sudden weight gain to all of the other possible on ice impacts, you can assume that these factors can add up to what’s caused Buchnevich’s back issues. Of course, we can’t rule out a hit or tweak that Buchnevich might not have felt while adrenaline was pumping during play. However, common sense logic makes the weight gain the most likely suspect.

Back pain can be chronic and this issue flared up in October and reared its ugly head again in November. The kid has been out ever since. It’s certainly now grown from a non issue to a real cause for concern. Is this kid going to be hampered by this back issue all season? Has he and/or the Rangers done permanent damage to Buchnevich’s back?

This might come off all conspiracy theory like, but these are legit questions. Additionally, we have no real answers coming from the Rangers organization as well. which fuels the fires of speculation.

Will we ever know what definitely caused Buchnevich back problems? Well that’s up to the Rangers to disclose. For me, until I hear otherwise, this issue of weight gain tips the scales as the most logical factor.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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