Off to Motown!
1. Tyler Bertuzzi - Guelph Storm
One of the OHL's breakout stars this year, Bertuzzi exploded offensively. His production this year (98 points) was significantly more than his previous 3 seasons combined. The first reason for that was staying healthy. Being able to keep himself in the lineup, so he could keep the rhythm going, and keep his confidence high made all the difference in his game. But the skill set also developed. Bertuzzi really took a massive step forward this year with the puck on his stick. He's always excelled without the puck, as a complimentary player who knows where to be and how to fight through contact. But this year he showcased skill and patience with the puck that he had not yet displayed in his OHL career. Bertuzzi was effective off the rush, but also coming off the wall, shaking off checks to create scoring chances in the slot and near the crease. His hands in close are great and he doesn't need much time to get a great wrist shot off. This is key, because he's still not the world's greatest skater. Another aspect of his game that was better was his discipline. Way less stupid penalties, and did more of the agitating, as opposed to being the one agitated. Obviously with the success he experienced in the AHL following the conclusion of the recent OHL season, we've seen the last of Bertuzzi in the OHL. He'll be starting his pro career and as long as he can continue to stay healthy, I expect him to develop into one of Detroit's top prospects. A 25 goal rookie season (in the A) certainly seems possible based on what we've seen of him at the pro level already. Could only be a year out from contributing to the Wings if he continues to upgrade his skating and strength.
2. Zach Nastasiuk - Owen Sound Attack
A very good year for Nastasiuk, who established career highs in every offensive category, averaging over a point per game for the first time in his OHL career. Nastasiuk looked quicker this year, and even though he never developed into a dominant force off the rush, he was more successful creating with speed and using his size to drive the net. Nastasiuk has a good shot and has done well to improve his overall puck protection ability in the open ice to give him the opportunity to use it. But it's in other areas that Nastasiuk's game is most valuable. He's so smart away from the puck, creating turnovers in the middle of the ice by forcing the opposition into defenders and by using an active stick. He's a physical player, even though the penalty minute numbers wouldn't suggest it. That's because he's smart about it and does a great job of using his size to his advantage without being reckless. And as captain of the Attack, his leadership qualities can not go understated. As he moves to the AHL next year, I'd expect him to be brought along slowly offensively. A 10 goal season would be great for him, based on the role I'm guessing he'll be playing. But there's no question that the Wings see Zach Nasty as a potential 3rd/4th liner for them in the near, and not distant, future.
3. Jake Paterson - Kitchener Rangers
Ultimately, the Wings made the right choice sending Paterson back to the OHL for his overage year. Starting with Saginaw, and finishing with Kitchener, Paterson was consistently one of the better goaltenders in the league. When Kitchener made the trade for Paterson, it brought a lot of backlash from some fans, but it was ultimately the right choice because his play elevated them to the playoffs. And even though the team (and Paterson to some extent) struggled in the first round, it gave their younger players valuable experience. Paterson was able to correct some of the issues he had with his positioning and reads in 2013/2014, regaining his form. And while he's not a huge goaltender, he does a good job of staying up as long as he can and being aggressive in challenging shooters to make himself big. He's also athletic enough to make 2nd/3rd saves and has long been one of the toughest goaltenders to beat in the shootout. As he finally starts his pro career, I suppose there is some uncertainty surrounding his destination. Even though Petr Mrazek will be graduating to full time back up, the Wings do have depth at the position and it would appear Tom McCollum (former OHL net minder) and Jared Coreau have the inside track at the jobs in the AHL. That means Paterson will likely start in the ECHL (not uncommon for goalies) and will at least get tons of action in.
*of Note, Wings 3rd rounder Vili Saarijarvi will play for Flint this year after being selected in the Import Draft. The Firebirds (or former Whalers) could be a decent team if they can get more production offensively, which is where Saarijarvi comes in. His ability to run the power play and push the pace of play is something that the team lacked last year and was sorely needed.