Tyler Bunz has only played in four AHL games across two seasons as an Oilers prospect goaltender. The bulk of his games have been played in the ECHL in two destinations – Stockton (37) and Bakersfield (3). In 37 starts in Stockton he was thrown to the wolves, and out played by ECHL tenders pretty consistently. With a save percentage under .900, we all agreed that perhaps the Medicine Hat alum was a bit underwhelming especially when paired with another Oilers prospect, Olivier Roy.
Fast forward to 2013-14 season, and Bunz again would be sent to the ECHL of Bakersfield to hone his craft while Richard Bachman and Olivier Roy stayed in Oklahoma City. It was clear that Tyler was going to have to make big strides in the start of the season to get appreciation from his NHL club. In three games played (two starts) he appeared to do nothing like that, and actually began the season at an awful pace allowing eight goals, and keeping his save percentage well under .900. The doldrums, welcome to them.
Then a funny thing happened. Richard Bachman was injured while on recall to the Oilers. Somewhere in the last couple of days a trade was made that included Olivier Roy moving to the Calgary franchise. With Bachman injured, and Bryzgalov eventually heading to Edmonton, Tyler Bunz suddenly became the “old man” of the Barons goaltending crew. Weird.
He would play two solid games facing a combined 73 shots, amassing a save percentage of .932, and splitting those games 1-1, Tyler Bunz showed some incredible agility, intelligence, and consistency. Yes, it’s two games, and yes it’s the San Antonio Rampage (a pretty bad squad in the first portion of the season), but he looks like a different animal. That’s a good thing.
Call it a good old fashioned wake up call if you would like, but there is no denying that Tyler Bunz has looked really good in two starts post-Olivier Roy. Maybe, just maybe, with Olivier Roy gone he is feeling a bit of pressure to be better. The move of Roy also speaks volumes to how Craig MacTavish is willing to deal. No one is irreplaceable.
The hope is that Bunz, and his chill-pill goaltending, become hugely successful. However, when Richard Bachman is healthy he will return to Oklahoma City. When Bryzgalov is done with his conditioning stint he will make his debut with Edmonton. That leaves Devan Dubnyk as the likely number two in the NHL. Jason Labarbera would need to come to Oklahoma City, and suddenly the bench gets crowded. Oklahoma City has held on to three goaltenders before, but I can’t imagine them doing this again. That means Bunz will have to be shipped back to the ECHL. That is unless MacTavish wants to pour into the future immediately, and give Bunz reps with the Barons. Regardless, the log jam is so far backed up, someone is going to have to be moved.
Tyler Bunz now has a chance to play back into the good graces of the Edmonton Oilers organization. A rare chance that only months ago I assumed he would never receive again. Two games does not make a perfect goaltender, but at least for now there is hope. Let’s see what he can accomplish in a ten game span. That’s IF he is given the chance. Godspeed.