I'll admit, while Ken Holland and his scouting crew have done a marvelous job of finding talent in later rounds, there have been a handful of picks where I've gone "what the hell?" I'm speaking in terms of when the pick was made, of course. But nevertheless, the prospect we're talking about today was one of those situations. When the Detroit Red Wings traded down from 18th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, and acquired the 20th and 58th picks from San Jose, I was expecting big things. With the 58th pick, the Red Wings drafted forward Tyler Bertuzzi, nephew of former Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi. At the time, I was left scratching my head. I had no idea why the Wings had Tyler in their crosshairs in the second round, seeing that he was ranked 207th among North American skaters in 2013. Before his draft year, Bertuzzi put up 22 points in 43 games with the OHL's Guelph Storm. Staggering numbers? Absolutely not. It was a questionable pick at the time.
The following season is when the spark plug forward started to open some eyes..
Bertuzzi put up 35 points in 29 games in 2013-2014. Tyler sat out most of the season nursing a head/neck injury, in which he was experiencing concussion-like symptoms. He finally made his return in the playoffs, where he scored 17 points through 18 games, and lead his team to a Memorial Cup Championship. Not bad. 2014-2015 is when the young grinder truly blossomed. In 68 games, Tyler Bertuzzi had a career-best 98 points in his final season with Guelph. Now there are some staggering numbers for you. After being eliminated from the playoffs, Bertuzzi graduated to the AHL level in which he made his debut with the Grand Rapids Griffins, scoring his first goal in the first two games he played. For those of you who were able to follow along with the Griffins postseason, you'll know that Bertuzzi was a pinnacle role player for the club. Bert had 12 points in 14 games, but his style of play was so much more than that.
The easiest way to describe Tyler Bertuzzi? He's a tenacious, hellacious, in-your-face, straw that stirs the drink. Not only does Bertuzzi boast a solid two-way game, he has a handful of intangibles that makes him an extremely valuable asset to the Red Wings - His ability to piss opposing players off. He's skilled, gritty, and smart. He's the definition of a "blue collar" player. His decision making with the puck shows high-end hockey IQ, and an overall mature game.
With so much upside, does come some downside for Tyler. The biggest flaw in his game are penalty minutes. While they have dropped drastically over the past few years, they still can weigh him down. He likes to get under the opposing player's skin more often than not, and that can cause turmoil, obviously. Turmoil which can lead to unnecessary penalty minutes. The good news is that his penalty differential seems to be trending the right way, and he's becoming more cerebral about it. He's a smart kid, and knows right from wrong.
How about some blurbs from other WIIM writers? No? Well, too bad. You don't have a choice. I'm the captain of this sailboat. Here is JJ:
When Detroit took Tyler Bertuzzi with the bonus 2nd round pick they got from San Jose for trading back two spots in the first round of 2014 (before grabbing Anthony Mantha) a lot of people shook their heads about using such a pick on a guy that many people thought would still be available deep into the third round and possibly later. What we thought they were getting was a regular-sized agitating grinder with a familiar name who put up decent numbers for Guelph but nothing terribly eye-popping. What they got instead was a kid with very good hockey sense who has been able to rein in some of his own bad tendencies while still drawing them out of the opposition. Bertuzzi has very good hand-eye coordination and just seems to find the right area to be on. Additionally, Bertuzzi enjoyed near-instant chemistry with Anthony Mantha while in Grand Rapids while putting up 7 goals and 12 points in the Griffins' 14 playoff games. Bertuzzi is another prototypical Abdelkader-type player who may be more NHL ready than many of his age peers.
And as always, here's our Matriarch of Red Wings prospects, Michelle:
The evolution of Tyler Bertuzzi has been a blast to watch. When the Wings drafted him he looked like just another pesty face punching player who the Wings threw a bone because his Uncle Todd was on their team. The Wings scouts clearly saw something more in Lil Bert when they picked him and now everyone is starting to see it as well. Bertuzzi plays a gritty, physical, agitating game and loves being a pest who gets other players distracted and off their game. He’s also learned enough discipline that he does more of the penalty drawing than penalty taking. I can’t count how many times in the Griffins playoff run last spring, players abused and harassed Tyler in an attempt to get him to do something stupid and take a penalty. What happened most of the time is that Bertuzzi kept his cool and let the other player take a penalty instead, or the ref’s let a whole lot of abuse go and decided not to call anything. Bertuzzi has the tools to be an agitating grinder, but what he also has is a high hockey IQ, an infectious energy and drive, very good playmaking abilities, excellent hand-eye coordination, and the best Holmstrom net front impersonation I’ve seen since Holmstrom himself. One of the things that also impressed me about Bertuzzi in the playoffs, was his zone entry abilities. Time after time I would watch him successfully carry the puck into the offensive zone, even when it didn’t appear he had a clear path. He has a somewhat awkward skating style, almost aloof looking, but it seems to work for him and I think it might confuse goalies and other skaters. Bertuzzi’s agitating skills may have been what got him noticed early on in juniors, but what has us raving about him now are his hockey skills combined with his ability to agitate and the energy he brings to any team. A lot of people still bring up his fight with Nick Jensen in his first develpment camp as a reason to call him a goon, but anyone who’s watched him since them can clearly see he’s matured immensely since then. It’s usually a terrible idea to judge anyone based on a single event in their life, like a stupid mistake they can’t undo. Bert has matured both physically and mentally by leaps and bounds in the last two years, and the fact that we rank him so high in the prospect depth chart is a testament to just how far he’s come. He came into the AHL and made an impact in his first game, scoring his first goal, and he looked like he’d been playing in the league all year. Tyler Bertuzzi has the potential to be an invaluable player for the Red Wings who combines the gritty, agitating, hard working tools with hockey IQ, skill, and energy that will drive opposing skaters nuts, then go score a goal and drive goalies nuts too. He’s an exciting prospect for sure.
JJ - #4
Graham - #6
Kyle - #5
Michelle - #5
Jeff - #3
Joe - #5
Caleb - #4
Christian - #4
Prashanth - #4
Lauren - #5
So there you have it, the once bottom-ranked Tyler Bertuzzi has climbed himself into the top-five prospects of an NHL team. As I said before, I wasn't crazy about the pick at first, but in retrospect it does not mean much. Tyler is a fantastic hockey player, and is well on his way to having a lush career in the NHL.