Maple Leafs Rookie Michael Bunting Emerging As Calder Trophy Candidate

Maple Leafs Rookie Michael Bunting Emerging As Calder Trophy Candidate
By Cecil Peters
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Entering this NHL season, expectations were sky-high for Montreal Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield.

Caufield, the 15th overall pick in 2019 was coming off of a great season in the NCAA, putting up 30 goals in 31 games for the University of Wisconsin on his way to winning the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s top player. He then got his first taste of NHL action, scoring four goals in 10 regular-season games for the Canadiens before putting up 12 points in 20 games during Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup final.

With that extra experience in mind, oddsmakers made him the preseason favorite to win the 2022 Calder Memorial Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s top rookie. At +300, Caufield was favored in NHL betting over Trevor Zegras of the Anaheim Ducks (+500) as the leading candidates for the award.

Things didn’t go as planned. Caufield had a terrible start to the season and was sent down to the minors for a brief period to get him out of his slump. Caufield wasn’t the only member of the Canadiens to struggle and head coach Dominique Ducharme was fired midway through the season.

Caufield only had one goal and eight points in 30 games under Ducharme, but the coaching change clearly helped him, as he has put up 25 points in 22 games with new head coach Martin St. Louis.

That pace would have led all rookies in scoring had he scored at that rate all season. However, the hole he dug himself was too big, so Caufield is now a longshot to win the Calder at odds of +6000 with Ontario sports betting just days away from launching its open market.

Calder Trophy Odds

Moritz Seider, Red Wings-154
Lucas Raymond, Red Wings+400
Trevor Zegras, Ducks+450
Michael Bunting, Maple Leafs+600
Cole Caulfield, Canadiens+6000
*Odds via PointsBet Ontario

Bunting Emerges for Leafs

Toronto forward Michael Bunting came into the year with much less fanfare, at +3500 odds for the Calder. You couldn’t be blamed for not knowing his name before the season — in fact he barely qualified for the award. He turned 26 on Sept. 17; had he been born just two days earlier, he wouldn’t have been eligible.

A career AHL player before this season, Bunting had a strong run of 21 games (25 games would also have made him ineligible) with the Arizona Coyotes to finish the 2020-21 season with 10 goals. That convinced the Maple Leafs to sign him as a free agent in the offseason.

Bunting has blossomed as a member of the Leafs’ dominant top line, playing with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on one of the best offensive units in the league. The results have been great, as Bunting has 51 points through 66 games this season, tops among all rookies. This great run has resulted in him vaulting up the odds board and his odds are now +600 at PointsBet Sportsbook, trailing only Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and Zegras.

Red Wings' Seider Favored

Seider has the inside track on the Calder this year, with odds of -154 at PointsBet. The Detroit Red Wings defenseman has had a great season, ranking fourth among all rookies in points and 13th among all defenseman in the league. Defense is usually the hardest position for a rookie to have an impact, and he has simply come in and looked like one of the best defenseman in the league.

Factor in his impressive point totals and it’s no surprise that oddsmakers see him as the clear favorite – and bettors in Ontario, who have only had PROLINE+ as a wagering option, can still get in on the action when the open market launches on April 4.

Teammate Lucas Raymond is +400 and Ducks sensation Zegras is +450 to win the Calder.

Other Calder Candidates

Raymond has put up 50 points through 67 games while playing on Detroit’s top line but his pace has slowed as the season has gone on. Zegras has provided several highlight reel moments, most notably his alley-oop pass from behind the net to set up teammate Sonny Milano for a goal. He has 49 points through 61 games after missing a few with injury but leads all rookies in points per game and at his pace will finish the season atop the rookie points list.

With the elite play on the back end from Seider and the constant highlight reel plays delivered by Zegras, the race for the Calder will likely come down to those two.

Caufield has put in a valiant effort since the coaching change, but his slow start appears to be too much to overcome. It’s hard not to ponder what kind of impact he would have had on this race with St. Louis behind the bench for the full season.

But those thoughts are ultimately irrelevant, leaving Bunting as the only true Calder candidate among the Canadian teams.

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Contributors

Cecil Peters
Senior Betting Analyst

Cecil Peters is a Senior Betting Analyst for OntarioBets.com. A professional sports bettor in Canada, Cecil specializes in analyzing the latest odds impacting professional sports teams in Canada, with a focus on Toronto's favorite players and teams including the Raptors, Blue Jays & Maple Leafs.