It’s official: the Guelph Storm are a family business.
On Saturday, with the second overall pick in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, the Storm announced that they were selecting a Bertuzzi for the third time in franchise history. After taking his father Todd with the fifth overall selection in 1991 and his cousin Tyler in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, outgoing General Manager Mike Kelly informed Tag Bertuzzi that he’d be carrying on the family’s legacy in The Royal City.
“It’s cool to be drafted by Guelph”, Tag explained as he awaited the standard photo-ops that come with being a top-three pick. “Just seeing your name on the board and to hear it called is such a cool experience.”
For a team that’s accustomed to success, this was the second year the Storm were at the top of the draft board. A 49-point regular season landed them behind the Barrie Colts this year, while last season’s 13 wins had them picking first overall. That netted them leading scorer and Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Merkley; a player that Bertuzzi is familiar with.
“I know Merkley because I played against him last year (at the OHL Cup). He’s really talented, and I’m looking forward to playing with him.” In that OHL Cup, Tag put up five points in four games. A year later, he added three points in four games to cement his status as one of the draft’s top prospects.
While the family connections to Guelph are obvious, it was more than the familiar feel that had Bertuzzi excited about joining the Storm.
“It’s cool because you have the potential to be a really good player when you go there,” Tag said through a smile. “When you look at them you see good players coming from Guelph, and that history is cool to see.”
His bloodlines are a big part of that history. His cousin Tyler played 201 games with the Storm, finishing with 72 goals, 100 points and an OHL championship. His dad Todd came away from his time in the OHL with 280 points (116 goals and 164 assists) across 230 games, en route to over 1100 games in the NHL. He still holds the franchise’s single-season record for goals (54) and had his number honoured by the Storm earlier this past season.
“I was in a box with our family (that night),” Tag remembered. “It’s unbelievable to see your dad as one of the best players that Guelph has ever had. The chance to carry on the Bertuzzi legacy is awesome.”
While he’s still a few months away from suiting up for the Storm and taking the ice at the Sleeman Centre, Tag has some on-ice experience in the building. At one point during Tyler’s career, Tag went down to the ice before a practice to skate with some of his cousin’s teammates. He has been around for a few games since, unknowingly sitting among his future fans
Heading into the off-season, the second overall pick has things to work on like any other rookie. He wants to improve his 200-foot game and get bigger (although he already measures in around 6’1” and 190 lbs), stronger, and faster. Depending on what happens over the course of the off-season with Guelph’s search for a new General Manager and Head Coach, he may even have to work on his media game. There’s the potential he’ll have to answer a few questions on whether or not his dad will be taking a role within the organization.
For right now though, he’s just taking his dad’s advice.
“For the draft, he just said ’soak it in’. It only happens once, so you better enjoy it.”
Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.
Guelph Storm radio play-by-play man Larry Mellot caught up with Todd and Tag Bertuzzi on draft day as well. You can find that interview here.