Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting leads all rookies in goals this year, but can he actually win the Calder Trophy at year’s end?
When I watch Michael Bunting every night, I always forget he’s a rookie, since he’d played 330 professional games (AHL and ECHL) prior to being a full-time player with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bunting had 26 games of NHL experience prior to the 2021-22 season, but is still considered a rookie, based off NHL criteria. As such, at 26-years-old, Bunting is still eligible for the rookie of the year award this season.
It’s funny that Bunting is considered for the award this year, because his line-mate Auston Matthews, who is two years younger than him, won this very same award five years ago.
Regardless of the age-gap, Bunting should seriously be considered for this award, despite most of his competition being six or seven years younger than him.
Toronto Maple Leafs Rookie Should Be Calder Trophy Finalist
Through 46 games this year, Bunting has 15 goals and 32 points. His point-total is fourth among rookies, while his 15 goals leads all freshman (via: nhl.com).
Bunting is on-pace for 27 goals and 70 points, which would be an incredible rookie campaign. Matthews scored 40 goals when he won his Calder Trophy, but he put up 69 points, so Bunting is on-pace towards the same point total that Matthews was, which is crazy to believe.
Based off point totals, Bunting is well on his way to get nominated for the Calder Trophy, but no matter what he does, he’s probably not going to win. Despite leading in goals, Bunting will not get the same consideration as the other players because of his age.
Although he’s still technically a rookie, the voters will more than likely look past his stats and hand out the award to a legitimate rookie, instead. As a Leafs fan, you’d love to see Bunting win, but can you really blame them?
Jumping from junior hockey to the NHL right away is way more impressive than struggling in the AHL for half a decade before finally getting an opportunity.
The only way that Bunting can seriously win this award is if he goes on an absolute heater and leads all rookies in goals by a minimum of 10 goals. He would have to score 35 goals, put up 80 points and hope that no other rookie is that close.
By default, you’d have to give him the award.
Bunting also has a huge advantage on the competition because Zegras, Raymond and Seider aren’t playing beside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner every night, like Bunting is.
Win or lose, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Bunting is having an amazing year and that Kyle Dubas hit another homerun in the offseason. Also, for a fraction of the price, Bunting has been just as good, if not better than Zach Hyman, so that’s worth way more than a Calder Trophy.