Author’s note: This article was written on Sunday evening before Craig Morgan reported Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper will also represent Canada at the 2021 World Championship. Kuemper previously played for Canada the 2018 Worlds in Denmark.
After six seasons in the American Hockey League and 26 NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Michael Bunting is about to get his first taste of international hockey.
Team Canada general manager Roberto Luongo has reportedly invited Bunting—a product of Scarborough, Ontario—to represent his home country at the 2021 IIHF World Championship in Riga, Latvia.
Michael Bunting, who had 10 goals in 20 games, invited to Worlds for Canada. Great year for him https://t.co/3PTSe56AJG— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 9, 2021
Bunting will join Coyotes teammate and fellow first-time national team player Conor Garland at the tournament, which will take place between May 21 and June 6.
Garland—who hails from Scituate, MA, and will play for the United States—finished third on the Coyotes this past season with 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) in 49 games.
Both Garland and Bunting are free agents this off-season and could potentially use good performances at the Worlds as leverage in their upcoming contract negotiations. Garland will be a restricted free agent; Bunting is a pending Group 6 UFA.
Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong told José M. Romero, of AZCentral Sports, the World Championship offers players with less experience and time missed due to injuries the opportunity to get work and experience in high-pressure situations.
Bunting looked like a top-six forward for the Coyotes in a relatively small sample down the stretch during the 2020–21 season. He scored 10 goals and added three assists in 21 games after starting the year with the Tucson Roadrunners and amassing 19 points in 16 contests.
The 25-year-old winger accumulated a total of 3.8 Goals Above Replacement—according to Evolving-Hockey—in his stint with Arizona this season, good enough to rank seventh on the team. The six players listed ahead of him (Alex Goligoski, Clayton Keller, Jakob Chychrun, Garland, Nick Schmaltz, and Derick Brassard) all played more than twice as many games.
Bunting will be the first Coyotes player to represent Canada at the Worlds since Darcy Kuemper in 2018 and the first skater since Max Domi in 2016. Keller skated for Team USA at the 2019 tournament but there has not yet been any word whether he will join Garland and the Americans in Latvia this year.
The 2021 edition of the World Championships will be the first played since 2019, with the 2020 tournament in Switzerland having been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.