July 8, 2016
By Brandon Folsom, special to Detroit Free Press
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Spending last season playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins under first-year coach Todd Nelson boosted Tyler Bertuzzi's confidence entering the Detroit Red Wings' developmental camp this week.
The 2013 draft pick was so confident, in fact, he led most of the drills during the Red Wings' first session Wednesday at Center Ice Arena. He was the first player in line and also the one jarring at younger players to do the drills correctly.
Nelson noticed that during today's practice, so he called an audible to challenge Bertuzzi's confidence.
"He's really confident now because he knows what drills we're running," Nelson said. "He's comfortable in being first in line. I'm happy to see it and happy to see him take charge, be the first guy in line and take the leadership.
"When I was looking at practice today, I was watching drills, and there was a time that he came up that I changed the drills because he knew which ones were coming up."
Jokes aside, Nelson was just proud to see how some of his older, more confident players like Bertuzzi have made the first two practices run smoothly.
Now Bertuzzi, who is camping in Traverse City for his fourth summer, hopes to use that confidence to earn a roster spot with the Red Wings this fall.
"For sure, I'm working for that spot, and everyone in the room is working, and it could be anyone's spot," he said. "It's a lot of hard work, on and off the ice, and I'm just going to give it my all every day and try and get that spot."
Giving it his all certainly sounds like what Bertuzzi will be doing this off-season, as he'll spend the summer training in Detroit with some of the players who are already on the Red Wings' roster.
"We're excited about that," Red Wings assistant to the general manager Kris Draper said. "He's going to train and skate there, and that's him showing a commitment to us.
"From there, he's going to have an opportunity to make a statement for the Detroit Red Wings in training camp."
Bertuzzi made somewhat of a statement during his last training camp when he finished the preseason as a fan favorite who notched a handful of goals and assists.
He didn't make the final cut, though, so he joined the Griffins, playing 71 regular season games and tallying 12 goals and 18 assists.
During the playoffs, he added seven goals and an assist, finishing with the third-most points on his team.
"We like Tyler Bertuzzi," Draper said. "Obviously, he had a really good first year pro. Once again, he produced in the playoffs. He just seems to be a real big-game player.
"He's a guy that we love his tenacity, love his grit and the way he plays. He's a really greasy, slippery player below the tops of the circles. (Red Wings GM Ken Holland) just talked to all 40 prospects in here about competing and getting in the paint and the hard areas (to score goals). That's what Tyler Bertuzzi does."
But does Bertuzzi, the nephew of former Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi, have a shot to make the Red Wings this year?
"He's trending in the right direction," Draper said. "He's doing a lot of good things. When we drafted him, those are the reasons why we drafted him. He continues to develop and continues to seem to improve every year, and that's what you have to do."
If Bertuzzi doesn't make the squad, he's OK with returning to Grand Rapids to help the Griffins make another playoff run.
"I love it there, a great group of guys," Bertuzzi said. "It's great for development, and Coach (Nelson) is an awesome guy.
"We had a great team last year, and we had a lot of fun."
Bertuzzi should have a lot of fun this summer when he trains at the Red Wings' facility, trying his best to improve and make the team.
Only this time he'll probably not be the first one in line for drills.
"He knows what he needs to work on," Draper said. "Like I said before, him committing to be in Detroit for the majority of the summer, I think that's a great move for him. He'll be able to see the Luke Glendenings, the Justin Abdelkaders and the Dylan Larkins on an everyday basis. It's going to help him.
"The expectations for us is he's going to have an excellent training camp."