Think of Tyler Bertuzzi as the Detroit Red Wings’ bonus prospect.
Taken much higher than he was rated in most pre-draft rankings, Detroit selected the 6-foot, 178-pounder in the second round, 58th overall, with the bonus pick acquired in a trade with the San Jose Sharks that saw the Red Wings shift down two spots in the first round from No. 18 to No. 20.
Bertuzzi, the nephew of current Red Wings winger Todd, is a niche player who plays a hard physical game and agitates the opposition.
The Red Wings paid little attention to his low rankings — 207th among North Americans by Central Scouting — and took him because he knows his role and plays it well.
“He brings that element, and we felt like we wanted to add a player like that into our mix of prospects,” said Red Wings scout Jeff Finley. “A lot of times what happens is you like those guys, but they go a lot earlier than you were planning to take them. We just thought, instead of taking a chance that he’s not there in the third round, we had an extra pick in the second, and we didn’t mind him there where we took him.”
Bertuzzi just completed his second OHL season with the Guelph Storm, recording 13 goals and nine assists for 22 points along with 68 penalty minutes in 43 games. Although he fought 15 times as an OHL rookie, he cut back to just three fighting majors last season.
According to TSN analyst Bob McKenzie, Bertuzzi makes Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw “look like a Lady Byng winner.” And that’s a compliment.
The Red Wings also compare him to Shaw, another OHL product who just helped the Blackhawks win their second Stanley Cup in four years.
“He’s got something you can’t teach in terms of his fearless approach to the game and he plays bigger than he is,” said Ryan Martin, the Red Wings assistant general manager of hockey administration. “He’s an energy guy who is willing to fight and plays that abrasive style.”
Martin said Bertuzzi has grown an inch and a half recently and believes he’ll give Guelph even more of an energy boost as he gets stronger develops his skill-set.
Bertuzzi, who will spend two more seasons in the OHL, is also similar to Red Wings 2009 sixth-rounder Mitchell Callahan, although Finley said Bertuzzi has an edge at the same age because he’s bigger and a better skater.
Callahan, of course, played a pivotal role in the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Calder Cup triumph this season with his grinding game and timely goal-scoring.
“Bertuzzi is that type of player where he’s in your face and plays hard every shift,” Finley said. “He’s an agitator but he’ll back it up. He handles himself very well but just brings it hard every time.”