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Top 25 Under 25 - #20 Tyler Bunz

If rating goaltenders is alchemy, getting people to agree on how a goaltending prospect is progressing is the hockey equivalent of string theory. I can’t even say the guys at Copper & Blue hate goalies, only because I think they are so baffled by them that it drives them to utter madness.

Tyler Bunz had an excellent year in the WHL, posting a .921 save percentage, which was 2nd in the league (to Ty Rimmer’s .922), while also being named the WHL goaltender of the year. This marked the 3rd straight year where Bunz improved his save percentage, which is exactly what you want to see from your developing goaltenders.

2008 - Tyler Bunz 1007 N/A 58 453 N/A .886 N/A
2009 - Tyler Bunz 3214 6 156 1380 8 .898 22
2010 - Tyler Bunz 3350 7 138 1574 9 .919 2
2011 - Tyler Bunz 3616 3 155 1813 4 .921 2
Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan
Bruce DB Derek Jon Ryan Scott
20 Tyler Bunz 02/11/92
121 2010
13 19 16 15 26 17 27 28

Wow, talk about polarizing.

Tyler Bunz had a bit of a reputation early on in his career for going down too early and having to scramble too much. One of the other things you look for in your prospects is not just improved numbers, but improving on their weaknesses. Over the last 2 years Bunz has become a strong technical goaltender that has combined his quick reflexes with much improved technical fundamentals. He doesn’t over commit to shooters and he no longer commits too early to going down on shots. He’s also got decent size for a goaltender (6’1"), and pretty good footwork, especially transitioning in the crease from low to high and side to side. It’s really hard to find holes in his game that can’t be improved with more experience.

Alan Hull had this to say about Tyler Bunz:

I think the reason I am so high on Tyler Bunz is that he is doing pretty much every thing you can ask of him at this stage in his development. He has improved each year since being drafted and this year was named WHL Goaltender of the Year. I don't know how you can be expected to do better than being the best goalie in the league you played in.

I completely get the fact that the development of goaltenders is almost impossible to chart, but given the performance Bunz has put in over the last couple of seasons, I feel like you can't discount his success just because of the position he plays. Were Bunz performing at an equally high level as a position player, I believe he'd be bordering on a top 10 ranking with many people. While the fact that goaltenders are so difficult to project can't be completely ignored, he has been one of the most successful prospects in the system over the last two seasons and he deserves the recognition for his level of play. The next frontier for Bunz is the pro game, and if he can adapt as well as Roy did this year, I hope he'll start to gain some traction with the rest of the panel (though I'm not holding my breath on that).

Of course the flip side is that there have been many goaltenders just like that. Jeff Glass, Justin Pogge and Leland Irving all come to mind. Being a good or even great goaltender in the WHL doesn’t mean NHL success is on the horizon. There is a big step between the CHL level and the pro level and he's going to have detractors until he can show that he can handle the jump, such as resident goaltender persecutor Scott Reynolds:

Alan is correct that if Tyler Bunz was, say, the second-leading scorer in the WHL, I'd likely have him substantially higher on my list. But Alan is (in my view) incorrect that you can't discount his success just because of the position he plays. You can, and you should. There far fewer spots available to Bunz on an NHL team because of his position (two on each roster compared to 13-14 for forwards and 7-8 for defensemen), and the information you learn about a goaltender's likely success based on save percentage in the WHL is much lower than the information you learn about a forward's likely success based on point totals. At this point, we still can't be reasonably confident that Bunz will be a good AHL goalie, let alone a good NHL goalie.

Bunz can only stop pucks at the level he plays at, and a solid year in the ECHL (or possibly the AHL) will go a long way to quelling the fears of his doubters.