It’s always interesting to grade players that were called up mid-season. On one hand, it’s hard to discredit someone who wasn’t on the roster for Game 1 last October but managed to finish the season with the big club. On the other hand, you need to take into account why that player was called up and if they were effective in their role. Tyler Bertuzzi gives us plenty to consider with both of those sides of the player grade.
Born: February 24, 1995 in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Acquired: 58th Overall pick 2013
Contract Status: Pending RFA ($662K for 2017-2018 season)
Games Played: 48 (Beginning Dec 9 vs St. Louis Blues)
Heading into this season, expectations for Bertuzzi were... I guess tempered? While many of us were hoping he’d make the opening night roster, it was apparent that Luke Witkowski and David Booth, and an unfortunate wrist injury, would prevent that from happening - Bertuzzi was roughly expected to be their type of grinding, agitating guy who may also be able to bury the puck a bit more often. Given this, it was honestly hard to expect him to make a huge showing this season (or, rather, for management and coaching to allow him to do so). However, injuries meant that he got his chance just shy of half-way thru the season.
Bertuzzi made an unspectacular showing in his Dec 9 debut, where he was -3 on the night with only 9:13 played. He would head back to Grand Rapids after that until Dec 23, visiting the Boston Bruins, and from there only missed one more game for the rest of the season. After 7 games with nothing beneficial to his stats sheet last season, it was good to see Lil’ Bert stick and maintain a 0.5PT/GM pace - we’d seen him step up in a big way for the AHL playoffs before, so we knew he had it in him to be a productive guy. Blah blah over-ripening blah.
Once called up, Bertuzzi was slotted into several places on offense. While ending the season agitating on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, he averaged 14:24TOI/GP - more in line with a 3rd line guy than a 1st, although he exceeded this average in 9 of his last 10 games. But it’s important to note that with development, consistent play on the 1st line may not be out of reach (although that’s certainly shooting for the stars).
He also did acceptably well at not taking undisciplined penalties, with his 39 minutes largely being driven up by two games - Feb 9 at the New York Islanders where he took 10 minutes, and March 26 at the Montreal Canadiens where he took 12 minutes. Setting these two games aside leave him with 17 minutes in 46 games - if he can keep the major penalties (fighting or otherwise) down, experience and learning at the NHL level should help him manage the minor penalties as well. Corsica Hockey lists Bertuzzi as only taking 9 penalties this season, but drawing a comparatively whopping 17 (only Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou drew more) - in a full 82 games, that translates to 29 power-play opportunities for the Wings, and a penalty margin of +13. In a truncated debut, he’s shown that he can be an effective agitator up and down the line-up.
Season Grade: B
I’m personally very intrigued to see what Bertuzzi could have done with a full season instead roughly half of one. Projecting his points for a full season, the kid could have ended up in Nyquist-territory (40 points) in a full 82-games - that’s top-5 on the team atmosphere, and the Red Wings could have definitely used more points this season. Also to keep in mind with regard to points pace, Dylan Larkin registered 45 points in 80 games for his first season. I’m not saying Bertuzzi is going to be the player we expect Larkin to be, but he’s certainly shown promise and was much more than just some goon we called up to be a warm body. With being held out of the AHL playoffs so he can train and continue to improve this offseason, Bertuzzi’s expectations will be higher next season.
How would you grade Tyler Bertuzzi?
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