Toronto Maple Leafs: Can Michael Bunting Really Replace Zach Hyman?

Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes (Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes (Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Zach Hyman over the summer.

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Zach Hyman at the very beginning of their rebuild, back when Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter were co-GMs, before Lou Lamoriello was hired.  Trading for Hyman was Dubas’ first NHL trade, and it couldn’t have worked out better.

Hyman went from a grinding, borderline NHLer, to a player who became – at worst – one of the best complimentary players in the NHL.  Still, I think Leafs fans have an unrealistic idea of what he actually brought to the table:  Just once in his career did he score at a first line rate. He has no 30 goal seasons and his defense ranked only in the 58th percentile among forwards over the last three years.

Ultimately, he was the Toronto Maple Leafs 5th best forward, and so losing him is not nearly as bad as people make it out to be.  The fact is, he’s a bit overrated because of his work ethic, great attitude  and general likability.

We already looked into Nick Ritchie and decided that the odds of him being the next Hyman were pretty long.  Today we’ll look at Michael Bunting.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Michael Bunting

Bunting scored 10 goals in 21 games and added 3 assists last year for the Arizona Coyotes.

This production cannot be kept up.  His Jfresh player card is almost useless due to the short-sample size, but it interestingly has him as an elite defender.

If Bunting can actually provide elite defense, it would go a long way in keeping him in an NHL lineup, but odds are that was an anomaly brought on by a tiny sample size.  If he can be a “garbage man” and keep his shooting percentage high by scoring trash goals, he can be really valuable.  At 5’9 he’s a bit small for this role though, you’d think.

That is a  lot of “what ifs.”  The fact is, we know almost nothing about this player.

His 17 goals in 36 games last year in the AHL and NHL combined are impressive, but he has never been such a prodigious goal scorer in any of his five previous AHL seasons.

Is this a late-bloomer who just suddenly gets it? Or is it just a lucky streak?

The Toronto Maple Leafs take almost no risk by giving him a two-year near-league minimum deal.  But is it likely to pay off?  I doubt it.

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The Leafs have brought in two superiorly talented players in Nikita Gusev and Josh Ho-Sang,  and this should create an environment of competition that can only help the team. Who will ultimately win jobs along side Matthews and Tavares remains to be seen, but like Nick Ritchie, expectations for Michael Bunting are so sky high they can only lead to disappointment.