Michael Bunting is having a very good season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bunting is currently second in the rookie scoring race, just one point back of Lucas Raymond from Detroit, but is the 26-year-old a legitimate candidate to win the Toronto Maple Leafs second Calder Trophy?
Many people think he’s too old to win the award over younger players with better draft pedigree, but Bunting is on a mission to push his name into the discussion and voters may not be able to ignore his results.
Realistically, there are only six legitimate candidates at this stage of the season. Let’s get right into some data and take a look at the race.
Toronto Maple Leafs, Michael Bunting and the Calder Trophy
Player GP TOI/GP G A PTS 5v5 Pts/60 5v5 xGF% 5v5 CF%
Raymond (F), DET 54 18:14 16 27 43 2.0 49.99 48.68
Bunting (F), TOR 54 15:30 19 23 42 3.0 59.41 55.96
Zegras (C), ANA 49 17:19 13 26 39 2.4 53.21 52.05
Seider (D), DET 54 22:58 5 35 40 1.0 48.11 47.53
Lundell (C), FLA 49 16:21 12 24 36 2.5 54.05 54.40
Player GP %GP W GAA SV% GSAA/60
Swayman (G), BOS 24 44.4 13 1.95 .929 0.57 (4th*)
*This is a league rank with a minimum of 20 games played.
Offensively, at first glance, the group seems fairly close in terms of production. Hockey isn’t just a block of offensive numbers, however, so some context here is important.
Anton Lundell is a little further down offensively, but he is also a center who is playing difficult minutes on a contending team, so he gets a bump for that.
Moritz Seider is a defenseman who is playing big minutes for the Red Wings and he’s playing in all situations, giving him an advantage over forwards with similar offensive production. Seider is providing a lot of value to his team that the other candidates are not, and that additional value needs to be taken into consideration.
Jeremy Swayman is having a sneaky good season for the Bruins and is actually one of the better goalies in the league if you count his per game numbers. As of now, he hasn’t played enough games to get himself mentioned as a potential nominee, but if he starts a lot down the stretch, that could change. He’s a dark horse.
That brings us to the 26-year-old from Scarborough, Ontario, Mr. Michael Bunting. Yes, he’s playing with two superstars. Yes, he’s on a good team that drives up his possession numbers. Yes, he goes to the net a lot and gets some “easy” goals. But I would like to add a few key points here that are being overlooked by a lot of people.
He’s first in rookie goals with 19. Goals are the most important stat in hockey. He’s also first, by a mile, in 5v5 scoring. Bunting is actually destroying the competition in production per minute played.
Bunting is also an agitator, a very underrated playmaker, and a much better skater than I ever realized. Basically…the guy is just a really good hockey player who can perform under pressure and be consistently relied upon.
I admit that what Seider is doing for Detroit is incredibly impressive, and I think the Calder is his to lose. I will add, however, that the games get much harder from here on out, and there’s no guarantee that a 20-year-old defenseman playing 23 minutes/night is going to continue to be productive.
If Seider struggles and Bunting continues to produce, this is going to become a very close race.
The underdog. The elder statesman. The guy opposing players love to hate.
I can’t think of a more deserving player. Bunting has endeared himself to the Toronto Maple Leafs fan base not only because he’s a local kid, but because he absolutely brings it every single shift. A rookie who has become a leader and a glue guy on one of the best lines in all of hockey.