What are the odds?: Draft prospect Michael Bunting

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 4:14 am by Steve Dangle

Hey everyone! Steve “Dangle” Glynn here. I’ll be in Philadelphia with Canucks Army overlord Dimitri Filipovic for this year’s NHL Entry Draft! We’ll be gathering lots of content, some team specific and some that everyone can enjoy, so I hope you like it! I’m not in Philly just yet but I wanted to get a head start with interviews of some of this year’s draft prospects. Thanks for reading!

He may not be a potential first round pick. In fact, seeing him get picked on day one of the draft at all would be well off the board by almost all accounts. That doesn’t matter. Michael Bunting is easily one of the most fascinating prospect in this year’s draft, if not the most unlikely.

Having just been drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo St. Marie Greyhounds as a 17-year-old kid from Scarborough just one year ago, Bunting is a projected second to fourth round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. He even turned heads at this year’s NHL Draft Combine by crushing one of the most key physical tests. All this from a kid who played double AA instead of triple AAA because it was too expensive.

Here’s my interview with Michael Bunting.

You didn’t play Triple-AAA until last year because it’s too expensive. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the price difference between Double-AA and Triple-AAA these days.

It’s definitely a couple thousand, for sure. Triple-AAA was at least $5,000 and I think Double-AA was $2,500 or $3,000 so there was a huge difference in what I was paying.
When you were playing Double-AA was there ever a point where you thought ‘I should be in Triple-AAA. I smoke these guys!’ or ‘I know I can earn it.”?
Well in my Minor Midget year and Midget year I definitely had the thought that I should hop up and play Triple-AAA because I had a few Triple-AAA teams wanting me to play. The thing was I had a really close core of friends who were on my Double-AA team and I really enjoyed the coaches I was with. I knew ‘If I stay here I don’t have to pay as much money, I’ll have good coaches, I’ll have good friends, and I’ll still have fun playing hockey. 
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I looked through Bunting’s Twitter for a fun picture to use. I was not disappointed (he’s on the right).

Fun is kind of important I guess.

Yeah. That’s what helped me out, for sure. I played hockey for fun. I did it as an extra activity and I enjoyed doing it. I think that if I was playing maybe a higher level that whole time and, you know, trying to make it a business I’d definitely have a different mindset going into every single game that I have now. Like I now think of hockey as – yes it can be my lifestyle but I also love playing the game. I just really love playing the game.
In other words, while you have a passion for the sport, you do have a life outside of it, and you understand that.
I think that definitely helped me because a lot of kids growing up, all they had, I guess their parents put it into their head ‘You need to do this for hockey, you need to do that, that, that.’ Then a lot of kids, when they get older, get sick of the game, right? Because it’s all they’ve been doing is hockey, hockey, hockey. So I feel that with the path that I had – I played hockey, I loved it, and I also had a life out of it when I was younger. It kept my priorities straight and I still love the game, and maybe some other kids that were just focussed on hockey kind of fell off of it. 
What are something the things you did, or still do, outside of hockey?
I play ball hockey, for my high school I played badminton, tennis, volleyball, and baseball. I did a lot of sports and I won athlete of the year three years in a row for my high school (Cardinal Newman). I did a lot of other sports, too.

It sounds like you were “that guy” in your high school, the guy who played every single sport. What was your favourite high school athletic memory?

When we went to OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) for hockey we won it all. We won the whole city in Toronto and then went over to Brampton to play in OFSAA, that was definitely the best moment for me. 

You’ve been through a huge jump in the past year. What was your first OHL season like this year?

It was unbelievable. This was the year of my life, really. I enjoyed it so much. With the whole Soo Greyhounds staff and organization – they helped me out. They knew definitely where I came from my development might be a little bit different from others. Sheldon Keefe, the head coach, definitely took his time to make sure that everything was right on track. Director of Player Development Wes Clark always made sure that I was on track and I knew what was going on. They just really helped my game improve substantially, for sure. They brought me to a new level so this year was definitely, definitely the greatest hockey year I’ve ever had.
Fast-forwarding to this year’s draft, what was your reaction to discovering you beat everybody at the NHL Draft Combine at the VO2 max?
I didn’t believe that. I remember I was driving home, I was on the highway, and I got a call from Wes Clark from player development. He’s like “How do you think you did on the VO2 max?” I said “I felt good after I finished it. I think I did pretty well.” He’s like “Well, uh, you came first” and I was shocked like “No way!” He’s like “Yeah, you came first out of everyone.” It was a really good feeling knowing that all my hard work that I put in after the season paid off.

Here’s an example of the VO2 Max test that Bunting aced. Toward the end it just looks like torture.

It’s even more amazing because you suffered an MCL injury on your left leg this season. I doubt there are any issues after a performance like that, but let me ask – how’s the knee?

Haha yeah. That was one of the main questions every team was asking me. Every team I interviewed with, that was like the first question that they asked. It’s doing fine. It’s right back to normal. It’s definitely a little bit weaker but obviously it takes time to strengthen it and that’s what I’ve been doing all summer long. I’ve been working out without the brace now so yeah, it’s improving everyday. I don’t think I’ll be wearing a brace in this year coming up.

Who helped you feel welcome in the OHL?

With the Greyhounds, we had a really close group. We didn’t have those cliques on our team. Everyone was really close, so I felt like I really belonged once I hit the dressing room. Everyone was very supportive if you had a bad game, like everyone made sure you were max pumped up again. Feeling like I belonged in the OHL was really quick for me, so hopefully at the next step it’s that easy, as well.

Is it almost easier for you going through the NHL Draft this year given that you just went through the OHL Draft last year?

I guess it definitely gives me a little thought of how it all works. Going through the OHL draft the year I got drafted I didn’t know where I was going, because I was two years later. I was a ’95 going in a ’97 so I had no idea. It’s kind of similar to how it is now in the NHL Draft. I don’t know where I’m going to end up and I really just have to sit and wait patiently until I hear my name. They’re definitely similar.

People have been saying maybe second round, maybe third, maybe fourth. Do you care at this point? 

No. If I get picked by anyone, anywhere, even if it’s the last pick of the draft, I’m going to be ecstatic. You know, where I came from, everything from now on is just a bonus and all I want to do now is prove I belong and I deserve to be where I am.