By Peter J Wallner
The Grand Rapids Griffins found something in Tyler Bertuzzi that had been missing from the team since Mitch Callahan was lost to a knee injury in February.
Bertuzzi, a 20-year-old rookie who has been the biggest surprise in the postseason, has produced offensively (six goals in eight games), defensively and provided a little nasty edge when necessary to put the Griffins into the Western Conference finals.
“I just wanted to come up here and, if I was playing, play hard and do whatever I could to keep myself in the lineup,” said Bertuzzi, who is the team’s third leading scorer (6-3-9) and is tied for the team lead with a plus-6 rating. “Getting that first goal (in his first game) gave me a lot of confidence and everything’s been going really smooth since.”
Callahan, over four seasons, developed into a top-line forward for the Griffins (16 goals and 38 points in 48 games) and kept his grit around the net. Blashill always called him one of the hardest working players on the team.
When Callahan’s season was cut short by a knee injury Feb. 13, the Griffins weren’t as physical nor weren’t quite as edgy. With the arrival of Bertuzzi, the Red Wings’ third pick in the 2013 draft, those elements are back.
“When we lost Mitch Callahan at that point we were worried if we had enough guys who played like him, ,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Tyler happened to be a perfect fit in that he plays very much like Mitch. He does a lot of the same things; he really complements skilled players.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Bertuzzi arrived in Grand Rapids on April 16, two days after his OHL team, Guelph Storm, was eliminated from the playoffs. He was 10th in the OHL in scoring with 98 points (43-55-98) with 91 penalty minutes and a plus-26 rating in 68 games.