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Michael Bunting: Proved He Belonged

Late-season call-up paced the late-season Coyotes

by Alex Kinkopf @AEKinkopf / Arizona Coyotes

As the off-season commences, General Manager Bill Armstrong and a number of Coyotes players held exit interviews Monday to review the 2020-21 season, discuss summer plans, and look ahead.

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Michael Bunting made his Coyotes season debut March 31. From then on, he led the team in goals. The late-season call-up totaled 10 goals and three assists in 21 games.

Bunting's instantaneous impact began with a multi-point performance in his first game, and a hat trick later that same week.

That hat trick, Bunting said, was his most memorable moment to date. The Coyotes beat the Kings, 5-2, on April 5 in Los Angeles.

"Scoring a hat trick at any level is pretty cool, and to do it in the NHL is unbelievable," Bunting said. "That is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I got a hat trick in the NHL. It was a special moment for me and my family."

Video: ARI@LAK: Bunting scores three goals in win vs. Kings

Bunting is not new to the Coyotes organization. He's anything but. Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, Bunting has played six seasons with the franchise. He is the Tucson Roadrunners' all-time leader in points (180), goals (74), assists (106) and games played (260).

Considering the lasting impression he made with the Coyotes, Bunting may not pad those AHL statistics anytime soon.

His NHL accomplishments did not go unnoticed. He received an invitation to play for Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia, May 21 - June 6. Coyotes teammates Darcy Kuemper and Adin Hill also will be on the Canadian squad.

Bunting and the rest of Team Canada leaves for Europe on Saturday, and he is anticipating a face-off against long-time teammate Conor Garland, who accepted an invitation to play for Team USA. Bunting and Garland played together from 2016-19 with the Roadrunners. 

"I am going right for him," Bunting said, jokingly. "We'll see who can chirp the best. It will be funny playing against him, this will be the first time. I'm looking forward to it. I hope we win so I can let him know about it." 

The following Q&A is from Bunting's exit-day media interviews:

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What have you taken from your 21 games played at the NHL level? 

It's been unbelievable. I wanted to come in here and prove that I belonged in the NHL. I spent my years in the American (Hockey) League, and it made me the player that I am today. I came in with a 'nothing to lose' attitude. I saw it as, 'Okay, there's 21 games left, and if I got into any of them, I would have to prove I belonged and give it my all.' I was lucky enough to be impactful from day one. I thought I did a good job of being consistent throughout. 

What were the keys to your success? 

I was just trying to stick to my game. I wanted to play a simple, hard game and get to the net. I was lucky -- and fortunate enough that the puck found me in that spot, as I say, 'my home' in front. I kept it simple, stayed with my game and was lucky enough to have success.

Did you feel support from the fans?

The fan base has been unbelievable and supportive. They have had my back since my first game, and that was pretty cool to see that they supported me even though I've only been here for a short period of time. 

What is it like to be invited to play for Team Canada? 

I'm pretty excited to head over there and represent my country. I've never put that jersey on and it will be a really cool experience for me, my family and friends. When I told everyone, they were excited and couldn't believe it. So, I'm looking forward to it. Thank you to Shane Doan for giving me that call. I was more shocked than anything on that phone call, but I am looking forward to it. He had nothing but good things to say about me. It was a great conversation. 

Do you have any memories of watching Team Canada as a kid? 

Coming up in a hockey family, we watched any tournament Team Canada was in religiously -- World Juniors, World Championships, the Olympics -- we were always watching every game and cheering for Canada. So, it's going to be pretty cool playing in these games.

Photo Credits: Kelsey Grant - Arizona Coyotes

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