THE WINGS NATION TOP 20 PROSPECTS: #4 TYLER BERTUZZI

Tyler Bertuzzi, the nephew of ex-Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi, comes in at #4 on our rankings at the Wings Nation. Ranked 207th among North American skaters at the time, largely due to missing significant time with a bad neck injury in consecutive seasons, the Wings went off the board to select him 58th overall back in 2013. It didn’t take long for the rest of the league to understand why the Wings sprung so early on the gritty 6’1, 190lbs Sudbury, Ontario native. Now a regular on the Griffins and one of the most consistent playoff scoring wingers in Detroit’s system, the excitement from the fanbase has been growing exponentially around this kid to the point where many hope he gets a look with the big club upcoming season. 

It’s not just Wings fan getting excited about Bertuzzi, this goal from development camp had him trending on Twitter by days end:

Savage. 

THE NUMBERS

So, Tyler Bertuzzi has spent some time in the box. 325PIMs in 201 games played in his OHL career gives you a little bit of an idea of how this kid plays. He’s gritty, he fights, he gets under the opponents skin but he also can put the puck away. In his final and only compete season in the OHL, Bertuzzi wore the ‘A’, stayed healthy and put up 98 points (43-55) in just 68 games. Suddenly that earlier-than-projected selection in the draft was starting to make sense. 

Bertuzzi did fine transitioning to the AHL full-time. He put up 30 points in 71 games but he came to the team to do a job, a job which is reflected in his 133PIMs that season. Is that maybe higher than we’d like to see at this point? Sure, but we need to account for the AHL being a league where players are not only figuratively fighting for their jobs, but sometimes also literally. He came to the team to fill a need and he has done just that in the regular season. He wasn’t drafted in the second round to notch 50 goals. 

In the playoffs though, Bertuzzi has really forced himself into the conversation of who the Wings top prospects really are. His 0.42 points-per-game pace in the regular season more than doubles to an astounding 0.87 points-per-game in his 23 playoff appearances. His 14 goals in 23 playoff games actually bests his 13 goals in 73 regular season appearances. This has been one of the most consistent and endearing aspects of Bertuzzi’s game, when it comes playoff time, he’s an absolute force at any level. He has a fine understanding of his own game when asked about his phenomenal playoff pace:

“I just come to play hard,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s a different type of game in the playoffs. It’s grinding, it’s gritty, it’s tough to play in. I like that type of game. And I think that type of game suits me.”

Max Bultman of the Detroit Free Press

Gritty, grinding and tough to play in. Sounds like Detroit’s last few playoff appearances where they weren’t able to keep up with such a pace. 

LOOKING AHEAD

After signing a ton of forwards this summer, it’s probably a safe bet that Bertuzzi spends most of the year in Grand Rapids. That may not be all that terrible though. While he’s proven to excel at every level, it’s generally a steady climb for Bertuzzi to really reach his peak. Another year in the AHL with more responsibility and ice-time will greatly benefit Bertuzzi’s development. He’s far better off playing 70+ games in the AHL than he would be sitting 40 games in an already crowded press box with the Red Wings. 

The potential is there though and it’s impossible to ignore. One of the few true grit players in the Wings system, we might actually see him transition more successfully to the big club than his more skilled peers. Pulkkinen and Jurco struggled in their third and fourth line roles when they finally made the big club. A disastrous combination of playing with weaker line-mates and trying to fit a role they weren’t accustomed to all while clocking much reduced minutes had them stunted. Bertuzzi could slide into a bottom-six role comfortably, be effective on the forecheck and not have to depend on finesse or chemistry. He can go out there and make space, cause chaos and try to throw some of his opponents off their game. Detroit’s bottom-six is weak and begging for someone to step up and steal a job. 

During the Griffins last playoff run, Bertuzzi spent a ton of time alongside another Detroit heart-throb, Andreas Athanasiou. They were easily one of the most dynamic, exciting and most of all effective lines for the team and played a huge role in getting that team as deep as they did. With a Mantha/Pulkkinen/Athanasiou/Jurco/Svechnikov backup all fighting for the same top-six role over the next few seasons, Bertuzzi once again could simply continue playing his game and see himself cut the line and become a regular on the Wings soon. Factor in an expansion draft that likely sees the departure of a bottom-six forward and the stars might just align for a Bertuzzi roster spot, just not this season. Barring of course a 2015 Dylan Larkin type performance in training camp or a 2013-style injury plague, expect Bertuzzi to start and stop his year in the AHL.