After producing 13 points and 10 goals through 21 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season, Michael Bunting is finally getting his chance to play a key role on an NHL team. On the first day of free agency, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed the forward to a two-year contract worth $750,000 AAV. Bunting and the Maple Leafs have had a great start to the season so far.
Michael Bunting’s Journey to the NHL
Originally drafted in the fourth round by the Coyotes in 2014, Bunting spent years playing in the OHL, AHL, and ECHL before actually playing for the Coyotes. Finally, in 2018, Bunting played in his first NHL game against the Boston Bruins, scoring a goal in his debut. From there the feisty winger split time playing for both the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate the Tucson Roadrunners. Despite playing 21 games last season, Bunting is still considered to be a rookie with the Maple Leafs. He will be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season.
Signing the contract that he did with the Leafs indicated that Bunting has finished his time in the AHL for now and should be an everyday NHL player for the foreseeable future. He’s taken a hold of a top-six forward spot on a very deep Maple Leafs roster.
Success With The Maple Leafs So Far
While still extremely early on in the season, Bunting is looking more and more like the latest gem that the Leafs have found. After an extremely successful preseason, the Scarborough native has played on a line with John Tavares and William Nylander to begin the Leafs’ 2021-2022 campaign. So far Bunting has put up three points in four games in that role. He looks like a legitimate top-six forward for the team.
What sets Bunting apart from other forwards in the NHL is his tenacity. He does not shy away from playing in the dirty areas of the ice and never backs down from digging away at pucks in front of the opposing team’s net. This allows the forward to get a lot of shots off of rebounds.
While his tenacious play can get him so far, Bunting also has a great shot that he weaponizes effectively. He utilizes a lightning-quick release that catches goalies off guard especially when he is shooting from close in front of the net, which he usually is.
For Michael Bunting to remain a force with the Maple Leafs he will need to keep up his good playing. Fellow winger Ilya Mikheyev will join the team once off of the IR in a few weeks. Prior to his injury, Mikheyev was poised to play in Bunting’s current spot in the Leafs’ top-six forwards. It will be interesting to see who plays in that spot once Mikheyev returns to the lineup. At this point in time, Bunting is in control of his own destiny. His performance will dictate where he plays in the lineup, but his early success has been promising so far.
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