In week three of our Detroit Red Wings player reviews, we move on to the final member of the first line. While Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha had already established themselves as a star or flashed serious potential respectively, it was the third member who had a lot to prove in 2019-20. That man was Tyler Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi had a similar road to Detroit as Mantha did, but took that road just a little slower. The 25-year-old nephew of former Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi was taken in the same draft as Mantha, with pick number 58. He’s a very physical player with great offensive capabilities that have shown more and more the last two seasons. Let’s take a look at the road Bert had to Detroit as well as his 2019-20 season and what’s to come.
A Calder Cup and a Call-Up
Bertuzzi was a member of the Guelph Storm team that played in the Memorial Cup in 2014. There, he was teammates with fellow Red Wing Robby Fabbri. The season was a rough one for him, as he only played in 29 games. However, he broke out in the Memorial Cup, leading the tournament with five goals. Bert would return to juniors for one more season where he would show what he could do. He led the team in goals (43), assists (55) and points (98) in 68 games played.
He would go on to sign his contract with the Red Wings and would start with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2015-16. His rookie year was a solid one, as he finished with 30 points in 71 games but had 133 PIM. It was 2016-17 where he would shine. He played 48 games and had 37 points while managing to stay out of the box with just 37 PIM. He also spent some time that season in Detroit as he got the call up for seven games. The Griffins claimed the #2 seed in the Central Division, one point behind the Chicago Wolves.
They would go on to lose just two games in the Western Conference playoffs before defeating the Syracuse Crunch in six to claim the Calder Cup. Bertuzzi scored 19 points in 19 games to claim the playoff MVP. He started the 2017-18 season in Grand Rapids with 14 points in 16 games before getting the permanent call up to Detroit on December 17, 2017.
Bert had an okay 2017-18 before having a solid 2018-19. He had 21 goals and 26 assists in 73 games and looked like a solid secondary option behind Larkin, Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou. Near the end of the season, he became the first Red Wing ever to record four consecutive three-point games. He went into 2019-20 looking to be the third option on the top line with Mantha and Larkin. That quickly changed as the season got underway.
An All-Star Caliber Start?
Much like with Larkin and Mantha, Bertuzzi would get off to a hot start in the 2019-20 season. He had two goals and two assists in the opening night victory over the Nashville Predators. Like Mantha and unlike Larkin, he didn’t stop there. Through his first 21 games, he had 20 points and was well on his way to career highs in every offensive stat.
However, it was around this time when Mantha would get injured. This would hurt Bertuzzi’s production, as he managed just three assists with Mantha out. As soon as Mantha returned, he was right back on it with a point in each of his next five games. When Mantha suffered his punctured lung just before Christmas, it was obvious who the Red Wings’ All-Star Game representative would be. With 35 points in 51 games, Tyler Bertuzzi was an NHL All-Star.
A Cold Streak and a Hot End to the Season
While Dylan Larkin had a season renaissance after Mantha went down, Bertuzzi did the opposite. He struggled massively, especially after the All-Star Break. In the entire month of February, he managed just one goal and five assists. After scoring on February 6th, he went 13 consecutive games without a goal. The team’s leading goalscorer kept that title with Mantha out, but that was more due to the struggles of everyone else on the team.
It was a total opposite to his previous season. Where in 2018-19 he started out cold before ending the season on a massive hot streak, it was quite the opposite in 2019-20. While he kept up his physical play, he just couldn’t find the back of the net. It wasn’t until the very end of the suspended season that he was able to find his form back.
His 13-game goalless streak ended in a win against the Chicago Blackhawks. This was his first of three consecutive games with a goal to end the season. He had a four-point game in the team’s shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. He then ended the season with a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes off a tip in front.
A Career-Best Season… That Could Be Better
When the season was suspended, Bertuzzi had a team-leading 21 goals and was second on the team with 48 points, which is a career-high. The goal total ties his career-high from 2018-19 as well. He also set a career-high in time-on-ice, as he averaged over 19 minutes a game. However, that’s where his career bests stop. His hits were slightly down and his blocked shots and takeaways were well down. He also had far more giveaways in 2019-20 than 2018-19, but that can be attributed to being a more important offensive player.
The biggest stats that stand out to me from his 2019-20 season are his shots taken and shooting percentage. He finished third on the team in shots taken but that doesn’t tell the whole story. He took 94 shots less than leading shot taker Dylan Larkin and eight less than Anthony Mantha who played a whole 28 games less than Bertuzzi. Despite this, Bert led the team in goals. His shooting percentage was 16.3%, which puts him amongst the likes of Steven Stamkos, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid.
Where Does Bert Go From Here?
The biggest takeaway from the 2019-20 season is that Bertuzzi showed what he could truly be at the start of the season. He can be a great power forward in the league who scores lots of goals in both scrappy ways as well as with flashes of skill, he needs to shoot the puck more. Bert has shown how well he can finish but he doesn’t have to settle to be the 3rd option. We’ll see if, in 2020-21, he gets put on a line with Mantha and Larkin again or plays more with Robby Fabbri.
Then again, that is if he’s still in Detroit. Bertuzzi signed a two-year/$2.8 million contract in 2018. That deal expires this season as he becomes a restricted free agent. Unlike Mantha, I don’t expect Bertuzzi to demand a high salary, long-term contract. He is 25 and has shown his abilities in spurts. However, he needs to prove that he can be consistent and can constantly be a top option on whatever line he plays on.
With that in mind, I expect Steve Yzerman to sign Bertuzzi to a deal before another team can get an offer sheet in. He has great chemistry with a lot of the top forwards on this Red Wings team. However, I don’t expect him to be a top scorer when this team is competing. I think he can be a really solid second or third line forward for the Wings. However, I don’t expect him to end up at the offensive level of Larkin, Mantha or even Filip Zadina. With that said, I expect Tyler Bertuzzi to be a Red Wing for a long time.
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