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Traverse City Prospects Tournament notebook

Tyler Bertuzzi refining game for Red Wings; Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat adjusting

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 18th Traverse City Prospects Tournament, hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, is taking place at Centre Ice Arena from Sept. 16-20. The Red Wings are competing in the Gordie Howe Division with the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and defending champion Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ted Lindsay Division includes the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, MInnesota Wild and New York Rangers. The eight-team tournament has become an annual preseason event for coaches, general managers and scouts to evaluate their prospects against their peers.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Detroit Red Wings forward prospect Tyler Bertuzzi is realizing the best way to punch a ticket to the NHL is by refining his all-around game.

"My game has switched a little bit," Bertuzzi said. "When I first played in the Ontario Hockey League (for Guelph) I used to be more of a fighter and agitator. But I've developed more skill and hockey sense. I still want to be a grinder and take the body, but my game is more with the puck now."

Bertuzzi, who had 12 goals, 30 points and 133 penalty minutes in 71 games in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League last season, might be given an opportunity with the Red Wings this season if he is able to display a more complete game. He was selected in the second round (No. 58) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

"I think you need to be an overall player, you can't just be one way," he said. "You've got to have bits and pieces of a lot of different things. I'm coming into training camp this year with one goal and that's to make the NHL. I will do whatever it takes."

Bertuzzi (6-foot, 178 pounds) scored 43 goals in 68 games for Guelph in 2014-15 before joining Grand Rapids for the Calder Cup Playoffs, where he had seven goals and 12 points in 14 games to help the Griffins advance to the Western Conference Finals.

"The element of his game that people like is the aggressive and tenacity, and he still has to maintain that but he also wants to refine his skill set," Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson said. "During the playoffs, over-exceeded our expectations and provided a lot of offense. I think what Tyler wants is to refine his game so he has the skill set to play in the NHL someday."

Bertuzzi, 21, is the nephew of Todd Bertuzzi, who played the final five seasons of his NHL career with the Red Wings from 2009-14.

"I lived with my uncle this summer in Detroit so we got to catch up a little bit," Bertuzzi said. "He'll tell me little things on what to expect and he always wants to know my goals."

Bertuzzi is also taking on a leadership role in Traverse City this week as an assistant captain for the Red Wings.

HURRICANE HAMMER: Carolina Hurricanes forward Julien Gauthier (6-4, 225) is beginning to provide a glimpse of the physicality that helped entice Carolina to select him No. 21 in the 2016 draft.

In a 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, Gauthier drove an opposing player up and over the Carolina player's bench with a solid body check along the boards.

"I think it proves to the organization I can play any style of game so I think it was a good thing for me to show I can hit people," Gauthier said. "Of course it was a big one over the bench so when it happened you're happy about it."

Former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, who is coach of Charlotte of the AHL, was glad to see Gauthier use his size and strength to an advantage.

"You have to continue to develop in all areas but definitely use the tools you have," Samuelsson said. "With the size and speed Gauthier had, he should be able, when the right opportunity is there, to get some good hits in."

Gauthier also had an assist working on the top line with center Janne Kuokkanen (2016 draft, No. 43) and left wing Warren Foegele (2014, No. 67).

"I just need to do what I do best in this tournament," Gauthier said. "That could help you have success moving into the big camp afterwards. I need to just show them what I can do."

DEBRINCAT ADJUSTING: The pace and flow of action at the Traverse City prospects tournament hasn't taken Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat by surprise.

"I kind of expected it to be a little faster and it is," he said. "The players are smarter, too, so I'm working on getting to top speed and making plays at that speed."

It was only two seasons ago that DeBrincat, selected with the No. 39 pick in the 2016 draft, had the most points (104) by a rookie in the Ontario Hockey League since Patrick Kane in 2006-07. He's looking forward to getting an opportunity to skate with Kane at Blackhawks training camp later this week.

"Hopefully I can pick up a few thing from those veteran players and incorporate them into my game," DeBrincat said. "It's cool being around those type of players and people. I'm really looking forward to it."

DeBrincat (5-7, 165) was the first of three second-round picks made by the Blackhawks in June. He will likely be returned to Erie following training camp.

"If I do get sent back then I'm not pro ready so all those things that aren't quite there, I'll want to improve," DeBrincat said. "I need to continue to take care of my body and do the little things right and that will help me get there. Winning an OHL championship is also big. We've gotten close the last few years but haven't gotten the taste of winning it."

CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND: The host Red Wings (2-1-0) will play against the Carolina Hurricanes (3-0-0) in the championship game Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

The Columbus Blue Jackets (2-1-0), winner of the past two Traverse City tournament titles, will play the New York Rangers in the third-place match at 6:30 p.m.

Rangers left wing Jimmy Vesey leads all scorers in the tournament with five points (three goals, two assists) in three games, and is tied for the lead with 15 shots on goal. Vesey scored twice in a 2-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Bertuzzi, who has two goals and three points in three games, also has 15 shots. His power-play goal with 25 seconds remaining in the first period was the winner in a 2-1 win against the St. Louis Blues on Monday. 

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