Time to shine for Bunz
Prospects tournament on tap for Edmonton Oilers' draft pick
Saturday, Sep 11, 2010 06:00 am
Tyler Bunz is about to realize a lifelong dream.
The netminder from St. Albert will pull on an Edmonton Oilers’ jersey with a group of other hopefuls at the Penticton NHL Prospect Tournament starting Sunday in the Okanagan. The Oilers open up against the Vancouver Canucks at 4 p.m. They will also play the Calgary Flames on Tuesday and the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. Game times are 7:30 p.m. All Oilers’ games will be streamed live on edmontonoilers.com.
“It will be something special,” said Bunz, 18, drafted by the Oilers in the fifth round in the June NHL entry draft. “I’ve dreamt of putting that jersey over my head for many years. To have that opportunity here in the next couple of weeks is pretty surreal.”
Bunz plans on trying to stay in a good place emotionally: not too confident but not too nervous either.
“It’s going to be pretty high intense hockey out there, so just playing my game and doing the things I do well is going to help me a lot,” said the former bantam AAA Sabre and midget AAA Raider.
It’s been a pretty hectic couple of months for Bunz since going 121st overall to the Oilers at the draft in Lost Angeles.
Just a couple of weeks after being drafted, Bunz was invited to take part in the Oilers’ summer development camp. He didn’t have to travel too far for it, just a short trip down Yellowhead Trail to Clareview Arena in Edmonton. There, he got to meet the team’s three top forward prospects: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson.
“They’re top-end guys,” Bunz said. “They have such a resumé that you can’t even imagine so, I mean to be out on the ice with those kind of guys is something that I’ve got to take pride in and keep working off of. I’m just looking forward to this tournament and going into the season.”
At the camp, Bunz also got his first taste of the passion of the Oilers fans, packed about five deep along the boards at the small rink. He was one of the guys they were cheering for, rather than being a part of the cheering masses.
“It was a lot of fun to be out there in front of all those people,” the six-foot-one goalie said. “They cheer when you make a save, so it was kind of like a game out there. It was a lot of fun and you definitely know that the Oiler fans love their hockey.”
Bunz and the other prospects also got to take batting practice prior to an Edmonton Capitals’ game and took to the field for the ceremonial first pitch.
During the camp, and a subsequent team-bonding trip, Bunz roomed with Tyler Pitlick, a fellow Oilers’ draft pick and Medicine Hat Tiger.
“We’ve built a bond already and it’s going to keep going as the season progresses,” Bunz said. “Hopefully we make that step to the next level sooner or later.”
Bunz and the rest of the Tigers got their pre-season schedule under way last weekend at Servus Credit Union Place at the fourth annual Edmonton Oil Kings’ invitational tournament. Bunz sat on the bench in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Prince George Cougars, but played the entire game Sunday against the Oil Kings. The Tigers came out on top 3-2 and Bunz made 27 saves on 29 shots. On the first goal, 15-year-old Curtis Lazar scored on a nice individual effort. Coming in alone on a breakaway, he deked and shot it five-hole. After Jayden Hart tied things up, Colton Stephenson put the Oil Kings in front 2-1 with a power-play goal on a scramble in front of Bunz.
Hunter Shinkaruk and Reid Petryk responded for the Tigers in their first win of the pre-season.
Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston has high hopes Bunz will build off of last season’s breakthrough campaign, in which he posted a 31-19-5 record, two shutouts and 2.91 GAA in 57 games
“We expect him to be a leader, to compete hard in practice, work every day to get better and carry the weight of being the number one guy,” Clouston said. “It’s his turn. He’s obviously got a bright future and he’s got to be the guy day in and day out. We expect him to be real good this year.”