It’s been a sputtering start to Tag Bertuzzi’s junior hockey career.
The second-overall pick in this year’s OHL Priority Selection returned to the Storm lineup Thursday in London after missing just over a month with a concussion.
That concussion, plus a forearm injury and a hip flexor injury, has limited the six-foot-one, 200-pound Bertuzzi to just seven games for the Storm thus far this season.
“Hopefully, no more injures,” said Bertuzzi.
He did play in five games at the World Under-17 Challenge last week, scoring once and adding three assists, before returning to the Storm.
“To play for Team Canada was nice to get in the rhythm of playing more games and getting back here it’s obviously good to get back into the jersey again,” said Bertuzzi.
Seeing rookies struggle, even those taken second overall in the draft, is not uncommon. They often see spot duty, particularly on deep teams, and there is always an adjustment period no matter what kind of numbers they put up in minor midget.
First round draft picks that do well out of the game are the exception, not the rule.
Of the top 10 players drafted this year only two – first overall pick Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts and seventh-overall pick Blake Murray of the Sudbury Wolves, have more than 10 points.
So it isn’t necessarily about production for the third Bertuzzi to wear the maroon and white jersey, it’s more about immersing himself in the process necessary to become that impact player.
It’s about getting the experience, getting used to the pace of the game and the tendencies of opponents and teammates, of understanding how the game is officiated and what is expected of him on the ice by his coaches – all things that only come with playing time.
“Playing two games and then getting injured. Playing two games then getting injured. Playing one game then getting injured again. It’s hard to keep up with the pace and know the game as well as you should, especially at a young age,” he said.
“Hopefully I can get back in the groove now.”
The Under-17 tournament gave him a chance not only to play in a few games in a row, but also get lots of ice time.
“Timing is probably the hardest thing,” he said.
“And it’s tough trying to find chemistry with all the players because you don’t really know all their tendencies that well. But it’s also nice to play with different people.”
If it’s any consolation, his father and uncle didn’t exactly light it up their first years in the league either. Todd had 21 points in 47 games and Tyler had 17 points in 61 games.
Things seemed to have turned out just fine for those two.