Veronica Neilson’s Grade 3 class is often a lively place, but when the letters from Tyler Bertuzzi arrived, it was a hub of activity.
Neilson’s students at Queen Elizabeth II Public School had written to Bertuzzi, a first-year NHL player with the Detroit Red Wings, as part of a project. With help from Angela Bertuzzi, Tyler’s mother and an educational assistant for the class, students learned the player’s back story, from his childhood and early days of minor hockey to his time with the OHL’s Guelph Storm to his pro turn with the Wings organization.
The also learned about hard work, perseverance and about being a good sport. Then they wrote to congratulate him on his first NHL goal, scored against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 14.
The students were overjoyed recently when they realized Bertuzzi had written back not just to the class, but to each of them, individually.
“It was actually quite nice,” beamed eight-year-old Darius Larcher.
“It was awesome,” added nine-year-old Landon Pamser. “He is a kind person.”
The Grand Rapids Griffins play the Manitoba Moose starting Saturday and Sunday in Winnipeg, and as both games start at 3 PM EDT, the Griffins have posted a video previewing the series ahead of this weekend’s matinee games:
It took two overtimes to do it, but the Toledo Walleye earned their 4th straight win over the Indy Fuel on Thursday night, with Christian Hilbrich’s goal at 7:45 of the 2nd OT earning Toledo a 3-2 victory.
Simon Denis and Austen Brassard scored the Walleye’s other goals, and Pat Nagle stopped 43 of 45 shots.
This Week’s Games
GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose // Sat., April 21 // 3 p.m. EDT // Bell MTS Place
GRIFFINS at Manitoba Moose // Sun., April 22 // 3 p.m. EDT // Bell MTS Place Listen: ESPN 96.1 FM at 2:35 p.m. both days Watch:AHLLive.com
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan profiles Red Wings prospect and Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman Filip Hronek this afternoon, discussing Hronek’s rapid ascent through the Griffins’ depth chart:
Griffins coach Todd Nelson was impressed with how Hronek kept elevating his performance throughout the long season.
“I didn’t think he’d develop as quickly as he has, which is great,” Nelson said. “From Christmas on to now, he’s been playing his best hockey. Maybe a month ago I thought, ‘Man, he’s really developed, he’s playing extremely well for us, not just the offensive numbers but you look at his plus-minus, he’s playing well defensively’.
“And when I thought he’d be peaking, he cranked it up another gear last month, and that’s great for us and the organization. He runs the No. 1 power-play unit, and he’s been one of our go-to guys He’s put himself in that position, so that’s a great story.”
The adjustment of going from junior to pro hockey, along with a glut of defensemen in Grand Rapids in the early going, made getting into the lineup difficult for Hronek.
But gradually it all began to work out. The Red Wings made trades to reduce the logjam, and near the halfway mark of the season, Hronek began earning the trust of Nelson and the coaching staff.
“Guys are stronger, faster and smarter (in the AHL),” Hronek said of the adjustment from junior hockey where Hronek starred in Saginaw. “You have to make (quick) decisions. The start was hard, it was tough to get tempo (with lack of playing time), and trust from the coach. Then when I started to feel comfortable, I was feeling better.”
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids Griffins on Thursday signed goaltender Justin Fazio to an amateur tryout.
Fazio, 20, led the Ontario Hockey League with a 0.918 save percentage and placed second in wins with 37 while making 51 appearances for the Sarnia Sting this season. He also ranked sixth with a 2.85 goals against average and tied for ninth with a pair of shutouts. The 6-foot-1 netminder added a 6-6 record, a 3.04 GAA and a 0.890 save percentage in 12 postseason games as Sarnia fell in six games to Kitchener in the second round of the OHL playoffs.
A native of Sarnia, Ontario, Fazio has skated in 176 games with the Sting since 2013 and has logged 50 or more appearances in each of the last two seasons. He has claimed 20 or more victories in three consecutive campaigns, capped off by a career-high 37 this season. In total, Fazio shows a 92-62-13 career record, a 3.26 GAA, a 0.900 save percentage and six shutouts with Sarnia. He adds a 6-8 record in 15 playoff appearances to go along with a 3.66 GAA and a 0.877 save percentage.
He had 31 goals and 59 points in 47 games during the regular season, playing mostly center, his natural position. He played a little on the wing toward the end of the year, which the Red Wings encouraged.
Rasmussen’s posted 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points over the course of 8 playoff games played…
“He’s learning how to (play wing),” Horcoff said. “He’s normally been a center. We know him to be that and view him as that. But at the same time, it’s always good to learn how to play wing, which makes him more of a complete player.”
Horcoff said Rasmussen is skating much better. That was the main concern when he was drafted. He has tremendous hands and offensive instincts.
“When he first started playing (the wing) it took a little bit, but once the playoffs started he found his groove and is more comfortable,” Horcoff said. “He’s hard on the puck. With his size and strength in that league he’s hard to knock off the puck down low.
“He’s making some great offensive plays, some great passes, showing some really good vision from below the tops of the circles, which is a nice asset to go along with his good hands and scoring touch out front.”
He’ll probably serve as a Black Ace and goaltender on the Griffins’ practice squad; he signed an ATO with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers last spring, ultimately spending his spring with the ECHL’s Reading Royals.
The NHLPA has been posting videos from its early 2000’s-era “Be a Player” show, and today, they posted a video of Sergei Fedorov from 2004, who was then a member of the Anaheim Ducks. In retrospect, the 23-minute video is campy, but it’s an interesting “watch”:
In 2010, when Dylan McIlrath was drafted in the first round (10th overall) by the New York Rangers, he was a prime prospect and a prototypical shutdown defenceman.
He was big, a capable fighter with a nasty edge and a fearsome nickname (The Undertaker) — all qualities scouts savoured when he graduated from the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors.
Nearly eight years later, the way the game is played has changed dramatically, but McIlrath is still working to find permanent employment in the NHL. Traded twice last season (from the Rangers to the Florida Panthers to the Detroit Red Wings), the 25-year-old Winnipeg product has finally found a stable hockey home with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s chief farm team.
He also hasn’t given up on his big-league aspirations.
“Last year, I bounced around — five different teams and three organizations — so it was a lot of hotels, a lot of people to get to know and different cities,” said McIlrath via telephone from Grand Rapids, where the Griffins were preparing for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series with the Manitoba Moose in Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon. “I was lucky to be in one place this year and I re-signed here because I love it here and knew I had a good opportunity in this organization to move up, hopefully.”