On July 28th, 2021, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed unrestricted free agent Michael Bunting.
At the time of the signing, Toronto fans collectively asked who? Little was known about Bunting as he only played in 26 NHL games before signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto GM Kyle Dubas knew more about Bunting than most other general managers, as Bunting had played for the Soo Greyhounds when Dubas was the GM there.
Michael Bunting is leading all NHL rookies with 55 points this season. He is benefiting from playing with Auston Mathews and Mitch Marner. Before the season started, many wondered who would replace Zach Hyman as the left winger for the top line. Bunting has become the perfect fit for that line.
His style of play complements both Matthews and Marner so well. Bunting plays a similar role to those two, as Hyman did, but he is better offensively. Hyman played 345 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs during six seasons with the team. He spent the majority of his time in Toronto’s top six but never once had more than 41 points in a single season.
Michael Bunting’s First Season With Toronto Maple Leafs
Bunting has 55 points in 70 games this season at the time of this writing, which is a lot for a player who doesn’t get on his team’s top power-play unit. He will likely reach 60 points and beyond. Not bad for a player making $950,000 this season and the next. Some free-agent signings are hits, and some are misses, and this is a big hit for Kyle Dubas.
One factor in Bunting’s style of play that is a bonus is his ability to draw penalties. He keeps his feet moving while battling for the puck. It will often lead to him getting hooked or tripped. With the Maple Leafs having the NHL’s best power play, having a player drawing a lot of penalties is good for business.
With 20 goals and 35 assists for 55 points, Bunting is looking to become the first Toronto player to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year since Auston Matthews won it in the 2016-17 season. Matthews won it with 40 goals and 29 assists for 69 points. Bunting could come close to that 69 points total.
He will continue to battle against Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and Trevor Zegras in the rookie standings to determine who will win rookie of the year.
Michael Bunting has been a steal for Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. The fact that Toronto has him under contract for another season at just $950,000 is a big win. Bunting has a bright future in the NHL. Hopefully, it continues to be with the Leafs.