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Preseason Game 3 Outcome: Michael Bunting Makes Maple Leafs Top-Six

There were a number of outcomes for the Toronto Maple Leafs preseason game 3. The biggest? Michael Bunting will play on the team’s top-six.

For this preseason game, both the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs left a lot of their veterans in the stands. That gave the youngsters or those players fighting for roster positions a chance to fight it out. The Maple Leafs’ roster fighters beat the Senators’ roster fighters by a 4-0 score.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Moving Mitch Marner on Power Play Is Successful – So Far

Sheldon Keefe Weighs in on the Outcome of the Game

In truth, from his comments after the Maple Leafs’ preseason game three, you can tell that Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe liked the way his entire team played this game. He noted that they put in a really great effort in every aspect of the game – be it five-on-five, or on the penalty kill and the power play. He even noted the high-quality of the goalie play.

In short, “All the way around, it was a really great effort.” 

Keefe praised one of the aspects of the team that surprised him. Specifically, he noted that there were a lot of players competing with each other for jobs during this game; however, the energy, the positivity, and the competitive spirit of the team was “really, really strong.” He credits that with the reason why he believed “they played as hard as they did.’

Finally, in summing up the game, he noted that the team made few mistakes; but, when they did make mistakes, they covered for each other through solid effort. As he noted, “I was really impressed with the effort and the commitment the guys showed tonight.’

More Specifically About Michael Bunting

Newcomer Michael Bunting finished the game with a hat trick. All three goals came from right in front of the net. Obviously, Keefe liked what he saw from Bunting. He said as much after the game.

Last season, Bunting scored goals at a very high 26 percentage. That means that more than one shot in four crossed the goal line. Everyone notes that he’ll never be able to keep up to that scoring pace. They’re probably right. However, it’s much easier to score in close like Bunting did during preseason game three than from the outside. He’s beating that mark so far this preseason. Of course he can’t keep it up – right?

Bunting Has Skill in Front of the Net

Bunting has shown the ability to find open ice in front of the net, and if he can continue to do that – along with what seems to be his ability and desire to win puck battles, he’ll probably score more goals. Perhaps lots of them. His last goal was in close; however, it was also a beautiful shot that he lifted to the top left corner of the net – that’s skill as well. So, it’s more than just positioning.

Here’s saying that Bunting plays the kind of game the Maple Leafs can utilize on one of their top two lines. From one of those roster spots, he’ll get his share of rebounds and deflections. He scored on a nice deflection for one of his game-three goals.

Bunting will not only make the team, but he’ll play in the top six somewhere. Anyone want to bet he doesn’t score 20 goals this season?

Michael Bunting with the Arizona Coyotes

Bunting is also a quick-enough skater. That gives him the chance to be the first player on many loose pucks. I keep promising myself I won’t mention Zach Hyman again, but these two share similar characteristics on the ice. One can always hope that Bunting will become as strong a player as Hyman, but in his own way.

Keefe Gives His Final Word on Bunting

After the game last night, Keefe shared about Bunting, “I have known Bunts a real long time. He gets himself into the scoring areas. He has great hands and great sense around the net. When he gets opportunities, he has the ability to score. He is as hungry as anybody to score. For him to get off to this start here in the preseason is a tremendous sign for him and us.”

And, the last two words tell it all from the Michael Bunting on the Maple Leafs’ roster perspective – “for us.” Already, it’s possible to tell that Michael Bunting’s head coach Sheldon Keefe has plans for him. 

Where those plans are, it’s tough to tell – specifically. However, it’s pretty clear they will be on one of the left-wing spots on the Maple Leafs’ first two lines. Welcome to the Maple Leafs.

Related: Two Maple Leafs’ Newcomers Who Are Keys to a Successful Season

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4 Comments

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