Michael Bunting may finish first in rookie scoring, but will he finish first in Calder voting?

Published April 7, 2022 at 9:39
BY BRADLEY CELSIE
When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Michael Bunting last off season, I think many saw some potential in the signing. But no one expected him to perform as well as he has. In 70 games this season, Michael Bunting has scored 20 goals and 35 assists for a total of 55 points. Perhaps more impressively, 51 of his points have come at even strength.

Due to his lack of games played in the NHL and sliding under the NHL age requirement for rookies by just two days (currently 26 years old), this is technically Bunting's rookie season - and he currently leads the rookie scoring race. Does this make him a favourite for the Calder Trophy?

Many outside of Toronto would argue that due to his talented line mates (Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews), Bunting has inflated numbers and therefore deserves less Calder consideration. However, watching him nightly, it is clear that he brings a positive element to that line with excellent puck recovery skills, an ability to agitate the opposition and an underrated playmaking ability. While he is the third best player on the line, he is still a contributor on one of the best lines in hockey. However, this season has some stiff competition in the rookie department.

Second in rookie scoring is Detroit Red Wings forward Lucas Raymond (age 20). Through 71 games, Raymond has 53 points (22 goals and 31 assists), which is good for third on his team in scoring. Raymond is definitely in the conversation for rookie of the year, and yet he might not even be his own team's best rookie. Enter Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider (age 21). Seider leads all rookie defensemen in scoring with 45 points (5 goals and 40 assists). For reference on how good of a season this is for a rookie defensemen, the most points a rookie defender has had in the salary cap era is 53 (Quinn Hughes in 2019-20). Seider also leads all rookies in average time on ice per game with 23:07.


When talking about rookies this season, Trevor Zegras (age 21) of the Anaheim Ducks name needs to be mentioned. Not only has he produced with 50 points (17 goals and 33 assists) in 64 games this season, he has been able to do it in highlight reel fashion. Most notably, his goal during the all star weekend:


With some talented younger rookies this year, one has to wonder if Calder Trophy voters will look negatively at Bunting's older age, as fair or unfair as that may be. Regardless of whether or not Bunting wins the Calder, this unexpected season should be celebrated by Leaf fans.

Bunting is signed through the end of next season, making $950,000 per year, at which point he will be due for a massive raise.
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