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Leafs’ Michael Bunting named a Calder Trophy Finalist

He joins Detroit’s Moritz Seider and Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras as the top three candidates for the award.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As the Leafs enjoy a day off between a game that nearly killed me and a game that I hope kills the Tampa Bay Lightning dynasty, there’s an awards announcement.

The Calder Trophy is awarded to “the player selected as most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL.” Aside from an upper limit of 26, there’s nothing in there about player age mattering, although certain people are very vocal that it should be part of the discussion. Certain people wearing Red Wings jerseys, this year. I wonder why?

The votes for the award, as with all the PHWA-voted player awards, are already in; they’re based solely on the regular season. That’s good news for Seider and Zegras, who didn’t make the playoffs at all since they play for bad teams full of losers. The NHL is announcing that these three men, in some order, were the top vote-getters, and therefore that one of them won. Let’s look at the candidates!

Michael Bunting, who turned 26 in September, hails from Scarborough and has never done anything wrong in his entire life. He was hilariously close to the line on all of the eligibility rules. Bunting would have been ineligible for the trophy if:

  • He had been born three days earlier in 1995
  • He had played one more NHL game for Arizona in 2018-19
  • He had played four more NHL games for Arizona in 2020-21

But none of those happened, and here he is. Bunting came to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs on an inexpensive two-year deal, grabbed the first-line LW job from Nick Ritchie’s stone hands, and never looked back. He finished the regular season with 23 goals and 40 assists for 63 points, meaning he actually scored more in his rookie year than Mitch Marner did. However, Mitch Marner didn’t get to play with Mitch Marner, at least in a non-metaphysical sense. Anyway, Bunting’s aggressive forechecking, opportunistic goal-scoring, and capacity to piss people off competitive disposition all have made him a fan favourite for his childhood favourite team. Whether or not he wins this award (if he doesn’t it’s a transparent case of anti-Toronto prejudice), he’s poised to be a top winger on Toronto next season. Awesome!

Detroit’s Moritz Seider, who turned 21 last month, was a sixth overall pick in 2019. This probably meant he didn’t have to work as hard as Michael Bunting (drafted 119th) but I’m sure he’s a nice kid. The rangy, mobile Seider was effective at both ends of the ice for Detroit this season, putting up 7 goals and 43 assists. He quarterbacked Detroit’s powerplay and was also defensive stalwart on a team that otherwise allowed basically anyone to do basically anything. Whether or not he wins this award (he probably will), he’s poised to be a top pairing defender on the Red Wings for years to come. Neat!

Anaheim’s Trevor Zegras, also 21, put up 23 goals and 38 assists for 61 points. Maybe more impressively, he made people pay attention to the Anaheim Ducks, the NHL’s most forgettable franchise. He’s already been the star of multiple highlights that circumnavigated Hockey Twitter the morning after they happened, like this one and this one. I especially like that in the second one the announcer is not paying any attention whatsoever until the puck goes in. Zegras has hands to compare with any player in the NHL right now, and he’s still getting better. Whether or not he wins this award (I think he finished third), he’s poised to be a top forward on the Ducks for years to come. Cool!

In conclusion, there are three great finalists for this award, and it would be entirely justified for the voters to give the trophy to any of them Michael Bunting.