By: Justin Dunk
It feels like a career-best season is on the horizon for Tyler Bertuzzi.
The 19-year-old entered the 2014-15 campaign coming off a stellar OHL playoff and Memorial Cup showing. He netted 10 goals in 18 postseason games and then scored five goals in the CHL championship tournament to lead all players. Bertuzzi parlayed that outstanding effort into an invite to Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team Development camp in Montreal this past August.
And Bertuzzi’s busy supposed “off-season” continued with a trip to Detroit in September for prospects camp with the Red Wings. It was a chance for the six-foot-one, 190 lbs. forward to learn from Mike Babcock.
“He’s one of the smartest coaches in the NHL,” Bertuzzi said. “He’ll pull you aside and let you know what you need to do.”
Before Bertuzzi left Detroit to return to Guelph for what could be his final junior hockey season, Babcock let him know what he needed to work on.
“For me it was my skating and getting faster,” Bertuzzi said.
There is open discussion amongst player development people from Detroit with Guelph. Everybody tries to get on the same page and work for the common good of both organizations. Kelly said the Storm want to help players drafted to the NHL get ready for the next level and at the same time contribute for Guelph.
“Typically our goals are tied together,” he said.
In Bertuzzi’s case just being at Red Wings camp had to help his speed improve, playing at a pro pace. Along with his hot streak to end last year his confidence has to be high. No. 17 for the Storm scored 10 regular season goals, added 10 more in the playoffs and buried five at the Memorial Cup to total 25 throughout last year. Bertuzzi managed 19 goals in 104 games during his first two seasons in Guelph. So it’s clear he’s ready to take off offensively.
“He wants to take a good chunk of the team on his shoulders,” general manager Mike Kelly said.
“I would much rather have somebody willing to take that responsibility than somebody who doesn’t want to take it. His inner drive and desire to have the team succeed is what’s going to allow him to continue from the Memorial Cup level and continue it through this season.”
After Guelph lost a number of veteran players, Bertuzzi has become one of the older players on the team and will be counted on to be a leader for the Storm. He was named an assistant captain to start the season, a role he should flourish in.
“It’s a responsibility I think he’s ready for. Some players have difficulty with that and being able to maintain their own game as well, but I don’t think that will be the case with Ty,” Kelly said.
“He’s a real caring kid. He would give you the shirt off his back and I think our young players know that about him.”
Bertuzzi – similar to his uncle – likes to play with a tough element to his game. Although, Todd was more physically developed compared to Tyler at the same point in their respective careers.
“Todd was playing at 235 lbs. as an 18-year-old in the OHL. He was literally a man-child,” Kelly explained. “Todd had such strength that people would try to hit him and they would literally bounce off.”
Tyler on the other hand doesn’t have that type of imposing frame so he has to be much more tenacious. Todd’s nephew has to go and get his nose dirty and be proactive hitting and forechecking.
“Ty takes the body more than his uncle because frankly Todd didn’t have to do that because he was so strong,” Kelly said. “Ty loves to finish checks.”
Bertuzzi agreed he is a different type of player than his uncle.
“I will hit everything and I like playing that way. I can score goals and you always have to play with a little bit of an edge.”
Look for Bertuzzi to be a tone-setter for Guelph in a variety of ways.