Sheldon Keefe provides update on Bunting; it's not looking good

Published April 24, 2022 at 9:30
BY BEN HODGSON
The Leafs biggest loss on Saturday night was not on the scoreboard. Midway through the first period, Michael Bunting took a bit of an awkward fall, but the only indication that anything was wrong was him shaking his leg out on the way to the bench. Bunting took one more shift, took a puck in the face while falling awkwardly again and headed to the dressing room for evaluation. He did not return to the game.

After the Leafs' 3-2 overtime loss, Sheldon Keefe held his usual post game availability. When asked about Bunting's condition, Keefe only said that Bunting will miss some time. Whether "some time" is a week, a month or longer is unclear at this point. The only encouraging thing is that Bunting was able to make it off the ice under his own power. Hopefully he will be in the lineup come game 1 of the playoffs.

This injury is a tough way to end a fantastic season for Bunting. He took a long and winding path the the NHL, starting from AA hockey to making the Soo Greyhounds as a 9th round pick after being passed over in 2 drafts, to playing over 200 AHL games before landing a full time NHL gig. Now, at 26 years old, Bunting's hard work has paid off. He started the season on the 4th line but earned a spot beside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner before long. From there, he's given the Leafs nothing but his very best and truly took away the pain of losing Zach Hyman in the off-season.

Bunting is still considered a rookie, and leads all rookies in points this season. He's in the running with names like Moritz Seider, Trevor Zegras and Tanner Jeannot for the Calder Trophy. Its a shame that his fantastic regular season will likely end with him on the IR. The most important thing, however, is that he is back in action when the Leafs start their first round playoff series. Bunting is a key player and the fire he brings to the ice is sorely needed on this team.


What will be interesting will be who moves into his slot on the top line. Nylander, Mikheyev, Engvall and Blackwell are all possibilities. If they can find some chemistry there, perhaps Bunting can come back on John Tavares' wing and give that line a needed spark. In any case, we hope to see Bunting healthy as soon as possible.

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