Goaltenders, by virtue of their non-linear development curves, are usually among the most hotly debated players on our list. Over the past two seasons, the debates have primarily been with the members of our list who have ranked players like Bunz and fellow goaltending prospect Olivier Roy lower than many readers believe was justified. Bunz had two very strong seasons to end his WHL career (including being named WHL Goatender of the Year last season) before turning pro this year, but his rookie campaign in the ECHL has not gone well to say the least and now those who have him ranked on the higher side of the list are being forced to defend their position.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Michael||Ryan||Scott|
As evidenced by the list above, I had Bunz significantly higher than anyone else among our group of evaluators this time around, a full five spots higher than Ben and Bruce. How can I justify holding Bunz in such high esteem? The answer is really that I don't...at least not right now. However, the remainder of the list was so suspect that I didn't feel anyone else warranted moving ahead of him. I personally dropped Bunz five slots from my previous rankings and would have willingly dropped him further, but didn't really believe that anyone else made the case to be a more legitimate prospect.
To offer his case for giving Bunz the lowest ranking among our panel, here is what Jonathan Willis had to offer regarding the Stockton Thunder netminder:
"There's a long record of ECHL goaltenders going on to great things. There isn't a long record of terrible ECHL goaltenders going on to great things. Jeff Deslauriers posted a 0.940 SV% as an ECHL rookie. Devan Dubnyk managed a 0.921 SV%. Last year, Olivier Roy posted a 0.925 SV%. The guys with terrible numbers - the Bryan Pittons, Glenn Fishers and Kristian Antilas - don't have careers. We can also be reasonably sure it isn't an issue of the team just being terrible defensively because undrafted Cody Reichard - a college goalie who posted okay but unspectacular numbers in NCAA play - has a 0.911 SV%. Bunz has been awful, and the only defense is that his pro career is less than 30 games long."
Jonathan is absolutely correct in his evaluation, and the bulk of the difference between our rankings is due to the value we have assigned to some of the other prospects in the same range as Bunz as well as how heavily we weigh his performance of the first 30 games of his pro career. A great deal of my patience with the team's young netminders has to do with the much discussed up and down development of goalies. Bunz amassed enough accolades to have a decent pedigree prior to beginning his pro career, which in my mind warrants a little patience as he has proven he is capable of performing at a high level in the past. He certainly has had a disappointing season (27 games, 3.37 GAA, .883 Sv%), but I tend to be on the side of slightly more forgiving of slumps for goaltenders until I see a larger sample size. That said, his numbers are alarmingly poor and if there were a significant number of players making noise in a positive way, I would have dropped Bunz much lower. The fact remains that while I'm very underwhelmed by his work as a pro, I see the likelihood of him turning things around and re-establishing himself as a legitimate prospect as being much higher than those I have ranked below him on the list.
As Scott mentioned in his profile of Erik Gustafsson yesterday, once we get beyond the first 15 or so names on this list (to me, the clear divide comes after #17) it's basically a cluttered mess of prospects fighting to achieve mediocrity. In my estimation, there haven't been enough people step forward to justify not having Bunz on this list, but if he doesn't start to turn things around soon, he may find himself among the also-rans by the time we re-convene in the summer.