Most fans did not know who Michael Bunting was when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed him to a two-year contract with a $950,000 AAV on July 28th, 2021.
They sure know who he is now and are happy he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Arizona Coyotes selected Bunting in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL draft. After being drafted, he returned to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and played for the Soo Greyhounds. He finished third in team scoring that season with 37 goals and 37 assists for 74 points in 57 games.
(Stats from eliteprospects.com)
His head coach during that season was his current Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. Bunting spent two seasons playing for the Greyhounds with Keefe as his coach. He got selected in the ninth round (160th overall) of the 2013 Priority Selections by Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas.
So while most of the Maple Leafs fans did not know what type of player Toronto was getting when they signed Bunting, Dubas and Keefe knew what they were getting. Having Bunting on a two-year deal for under $1 million is looking like a steal with the season he is having.
Although he played a total of 26 games in parts of two separate seasons with the Coyotes, this is Buntings official rookie season. According to the NHL’s rookie qualifications.
Note: All stats for this article are current prior to last night’s games.
Bunting Having A great Rookie Season With Toronto Maple Leafs
The Scarborough, Ontario native is having a blast playing for his hometown team. So far this season, Bunting has registered 15 goals and 17 assists for 32 points in 46 games. His 15 goals place him into first for goals by an NHL rookie this season. Bunting’s 32 points have him tied for fourth place in rookie points. He is seven points behind Detroit Red Wings rookie Lucas Raymond (39 pts). (Stats from hockey-reference.com)
The fact that Bunting is on pace for 26 goals and 30 assists for 56 points in his first season with Toronto makes him a great signing by GM Kyle Dubas. Even if he doesn’t end up winning the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year, he is giving management, his teammates, and the fans plenty of satisfaction.
Bunting got signed to replace Zach Hyman after Hyman left in free agency. Both players are on pace for roughly the same amount of points this season. The difference is that Hyman has a salary cap hit of $5.5 million while Bunting’s cap hit is $950,000.
When it comes to the style of play, Bunting is like Hyman in that he battles hard for pucks and draws penalties. When a team has a great power play like the Toronto Maple Leafs do, having a player who draws penalties as much as Bunting does is a bonus.