Toronto Maple Leafs: Michael Bunting Is the Real Deal

Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Michael Bunting, Arizona Coyotes (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

When Michael Bunting signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs this off-season, maybe fans didn’t know what to expect from the 26-year-old.

Fast-forward one week into training camp and all fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs know the name Michael Bunting. His preseason success isn’t a fluke. He’s not going to score a hat-trick every night, like what he did against the Ottawa Senators this week, but he’s going to score… a lot.

When you’re 26-years-old and you’ve only played 26 career NHL games, it’s easy to be skeptical. The modern NHL player is already in the middle of their monster contract and has played about 500 games in the show by now. However, Bunting’s path is a little different.

The Scarborough, ON native is a “late bloomer”, as mentioned in a piece by TSN’s Kristen Shilton. Although he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, it took until the 2018-19 season for him to play his first game.

Despite the grind of playing in the American Hockey League and rarely getting the opportunity to shine in the NHL, Bunting’s continued to work hard to prove why he deserves to stay at the next level.

Even though he’s scored at a good pace in the AHL, he’s never stopped working and grinding to score. He doesn’t have the skillset of an Auston Matthews to rip home a wrist-shot from the slot, but instead will grind in front of the net to win battles and score the dirty goals.

Bunting Will Be Huge Piece to the Toronto Maple Leafs Second Line

Head coach, Sheldon Keefe, talked about that intensity on the ice and why he’s so happy to have him on his team saying:

"“He certainly is a guy that makes no friends on the ice, and that’s part of what makes him who he is….Just in terms of the hunger and the competitiveness he has around the net, [it’s] because he’s always looking to get an edge on you. I’m really happy that he’s gotten the results that he’s gotten here in the first two games. It allows his confidence to grow, allows him to settle in here with us.” (via:"

If you look at Bunting’s game, it makes sense why they brought him in as a replacement to Zach Hyman. The former left-winger for the Leafs played with a similar competitiveness and worked his butt off to help his teammates. As a result, he was rewarded with a ton of goals and ended up getting a huge contract with the Edmonton Oilers.

I thought that Nick Ritchie could be that Hyman replacement, but instead, after the first few games, it feels like Bunting will be a more similar player than Ritchie could be.

Bunting took a hometown discount to come to Toronto and it could end up being the best decision he’s ever made. With a huge need at the left-wing position, Bunting should be given the opportunity to play alongside John Tavares and William Nylander or Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner every night and should flourish in that position.

You need a grinder, hard-working type of player to drive a line beside those four superstar’s and fortunately for the Leafs, Bunting is that player.

Next. Realistic Expectations from a Leafs Fan. dark

I’m not saying that he’s going to win the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy this year, but don’t be shocked if he buries 25 goals and ends up being the best signing of the offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs.