The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/12/13 at 06:47 PM ET
When the Red Wings used the second-round pick they acquired in their "drop down" draft deal with the San Jose Sharks (who picked Mirco Mueller 18th; the Wings picked Anthony Mantha with the 20th pick) to draft Tyler Bertuzzi 45th overall, the reaction from both hockey fans and draft experts was, to put it indelicately, "What the hell?"
When the 6,' 178-pound left winger and nephew of Todd Bertuzzi made his unofficial Red Wings debut at the team's summer development camp by breaking the team's one summer development camp rule--"don't fight to try to impress us, because somebody might get hurt"--and his battle with Nick Jensen resulted in shoulder surgery for Jensen, the, "What the hell?" line of thinking seemed to prove itself.
But a funny thing's happened along the way to Tyler Bertuzzi becoming an afterthought: at the Wings' fall prospect tournament, Bertuzzi, who's still a senior in high school, earned a regular shift on the tournament championship-winning Wings prospect team's penalty-killing unit, and he displayed a surprising amount of skill as a passer, playmaker and speedy skater as well as someone whose helmet flopped off his head just like his uncle's when he fought.
Now that he's back with the OHL's Guelph Storm, Bertuzzi's continued to post points on a regular basis and prove that he's more than simply an agitator, as the Canadian Press's Monte Stewart notes...
Heading into Friday's game in London, Bertuzzi has 10 goals and 25 assists in his third season with the Storm. He has three goals in his last two games, scoring two in a win over Sarnia last Sunday and one in a victory against Plymouth the night before. He also had a five-point night — the first of his career — with a goal and four assists against Kitchener on Nov. 1.
With 35 points on the season, he needs just five more to exceed the 39 he mustered in his first two OHL campaigns combined.
"First year, I was just coming in as the new guy," he said. "I didn't know what to expect, really. I just thought I needed to dump (the puck) in and chase it and just work hard. You've always got to work hard. That's always going to be part of my game. … Your game's going to evolve over the years, and mine's evolved into being a threat offensively."
With Bertuzzi's help, Guelph has gone 6-3-1 in its last 10 games and sits fourth in the tight Western Conference with a 22-6-2-1 record.
And Bertuzzi's coach isn't necessarily surprised by the now 19-year-old's success:
Walker indicates that Bertuzzi, a known agitator who has tried to cut down on fighting this season, has what it takes to become a regular in the NHL. Walker describes him as a player who can blend a physical style with a high skill level.
"He's a high-energy guy," said Walker. "In the NHL, he's one of those guys that you love to play with. He grinds it out, but he’s got more skill than guys give him credit for. He plays the game the right way and can do a lot of different things for us. He can penalty-kill. He can go in front and handle the puck on the power play. But he also can play a hard, physical game against other players."
Bertuzzi told Stewart that he's well aware of the fact that he can't emulate his uncle's game...
"I'm definitely quite a bit smaller than him," said Bertuzzi, who is listed at six-foot and 178 pounds. "I still feel like I'm growing. I'm still putting on weight, so I'm getting stronger and bigger. He's a big power forward. He's a veteran of the NHL and he's also got a big body presence. I'm a bit more of a playmaker."
But Tyler does hope to carry on the family legacy of beating-the-odds success:
"Growing up, you have Bertuzzi on the back of your jersey, and that's what everyone asks you, if he's your uncle and all that, and (if) you have the same number," he said. "But you're your own player. You've got to go do your own thing. Obviously, you have role models growing up and role models (who affect) your game. But you've just got to play your own game and be your own self."
Stewart continues and discusses Bertuzzi's draft experience, and his article is worth your time.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.