Meet Tyler Bertuzzi, the Red Wings prospect named AHL playoff MVP
They call him "Playoff Bert."
In order for the Detroit Red Wings to return to the playoffs anytime soon, recent draft picks are going to have to pan out in a big way. And one that's made a formidable impression at the AHL level is Tyler Bertuzzi, who was named Calder Cup Playoffs MVP after helping the Grand Rapids Griffins capture the league championship Tuesday.
If goaltender Jared Coreau has any say, Bertuzzi - nephew of former Wing Todd Bertuzzi - will be a mainstay in the organization for years to come.
"We call him Playoff Bert," Coreau told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. "I don't know if it's just his style of play or his will to win, or his eagerness to win, but he just performs. He performs when it counts. He could have five points throughout the year but then have the playoffs he did. I'd keep him around forever."
How he got there
Drafted 58th overall in 2013, Bertuzzi made the jump to the Griffins in 2015 following a successful run with the OHL's Guelph Storm that included an OHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup Final the year before.
Over the past three postseasons, he's been a huge performer, setting a Griffins record for all-time playoff goals.
Those playoff numbers mark a great uptick over his regular-season production: In 121 games with the Griffins, he's registered 25 goals and 43 assists for a total of 68 points.
Yes, that means he's almost scored the same amount of goals in the playoffs as in the regular season, but in 79 fewer games.
Playoff Bert, indeed.
In keeping with general manager Ken Holland's philosophy of bringing Wings prospects along slowly, Bertuzzi has appeared in only seven games at the NHL level, failing to record his first career point.
As St. James notes, his contract has him set to start next season back in the AHL, although he'd be in line for a quick promotion:
Bertuzzi, 22, a bonus second-round pick from the 2013 draft (the Wings got a second second-round pick when they moved down two spots in the first round and still got their target, Anthony Mantha) can be sent down without waivers. That leaves him vulnerable to start the season, but injuries happen, and if he doesn't make it from day one, he's certain to top the depth chart.
Mantha, by the way, was selected 20th overall in 2013, and appeared in 132 games for the Griffins before making the full-time jump to the Wings. Bertuzzi's long stay in the AHL, then, isn't abnormal in this organization.
The Red Wings, of course, missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year for the first time in 25 seasons, and the outlook for 2017-18 is somewhat bleak.
When this team does return to relevance, however, count on Playoff Bert upping his game when it matters most.