Tyler Bertuzzi is lone Red Wings’ player to choose not to have COVID-19 vaccine

Detroit News

Detroit — The Red Wings will be ready to hit the ice Thursday for the first day of training camp and in this new world are all vaccinated — except for Tyler Bertuzzi.

General manager Steve Yzerman, in his pre-training camp Zoom session Wednesday, said Bertuzzi is the lone player to choose to not be vaccinated heading into the season.

Yzerman said he isn’t disappointed. Bertuzzi will follow NHL protocols for non-vaccinated players, most notably, not being able to play games in Canada.

“It’s his decision,” said Yzerman of Bertuzzi’s choice to not get vaccinated. “It’s a choice, the world we live in today, and I’m not in a position to force anyone. We can’t force anyone to get vaccinated. I personally am vaccinated, my family is vaccinated, and I’ll leave it at that.

“Tyler has his reasons and I’m sure you’ll get a chance to ask him that question. But I respect the fact he has a choice and has made that choice and we’re going to work within the league protocols.”

Bertuzzi and other players were not made available for comment Wednesday.

More: As Red Wings open training camp, here are 10 story lines to watch

Bertuzzi will have to forfeit pay for the games he’ll miss in Canada. The Wings’ first road game is Oct. 23 in Montreal, and the Wings also have games Oct. 30 in Toronto and back in Montreal, Nov. 2.

“Tyler will follow protocols for non-vaccinated players, most significantly as of now, and for the foreseeable future, entering Canada,” Yzerman said. “You can’t enter Canada unless you’re vaccinated, so that obviously will be an issue when we go play Canadian teams.

“As it stands now, the Canadian border, you’re not going to be allowed entry into Canada for the time being. Does that change or not? I have no idea. But as of now, under Canadian laws, I guess you wouldn’t be able to cross the border so he wouldn’t be able to play any games in Canada.”

Bertuzzi can take part in intra-squad scrimmages (he will have to mask up), but will need to social distance while working out. On the road, unvaccinated players will be barred from areas such as hotel bars and restaurants, gyms and teammates’ rooms, or any building that isn’t the team’s practice facility or opponent’s arena.

Yzerman touched on a variety of other issues heading into Thursday’s start of camp:

►Bertuzzi (back surgery) and Dylan Larkin (neck) will be allowed to skate, after missing the end of last season, but will be worked in gradually to contact situations.

Larkin will be able to take part in “controlled contact,” Yzerman said, and progress from there.

“If he responds well to that, which we expect, the next step would be no limitations or hesitation in any of the drills in practice,” Yzerman said.

►Lucas Raymond (lower body) and Jonatan Berggren (upper body) both have “mild” issues, Yzerman said. Raymond is expected to skate part of Thursday’s practice, while Berggren will be held back. Both are day to day.

Both players impressed during the recent prospects tournament, but making the NHL roster out of training camp won’t be easy.

“They looked good in limited play in the rookie tournament here, they did well,” Yzerman said. “Hopefully they can get in here and perform well and get into the drills and show they’re strong and fast enough and they can skate. But can you play at the NHL level at the pace of the NHL game, and adjust to the smaller ice surface and every day they are here, it benefits that.

“I have no intention of sitting them in the stands in Detroit. I want them to play meaningful minutes and be contributors.”

►Yzerman doesn’t have a specific point total in mind this season for this roster, but wants to see players keep progressing and moving forward.

“We’re bringing in younger players in the lineup and it was important at this stage that some of these young guys move in and kind of take over the role,” Yzerman said. “Does it mean you’re better (as a team) today? You hope so, but it doesn’t necessarily work out that way.”

►Yzerman wants to see forward Joe Veleno in exhibition games, after Veleno played well in the prospects tournament while vying for an NHL roster spot.

“Physically, he’s strong, he’s skating, he is a strong skater,” Yzerman said. “He was very good in the tournament, looked real comfortable. I’m encouraged and excited to see him in the preseason. He was involved in the play at both ends of the rink.”

►Forward Jakub Vrana will not be on the ice Thursday, as he’s stuck in Europe with visa issues. Vrana is expected to arrive within the next few days.

“We’re literally waiting,” Yzerman said. “We hoped he would be on a plane yesterday or today. It’s a day to day thing. Once we get that resolved, he’ll be in here.”

►Yzerman said the Wings will keep eight defensemen on the roster to start the regular season. Top prospect Moritz Seider will get plenty of ice time in the exhibition season to audition for a roster spot.

“I would temper the excitement and expectations,” Yzerman said. “It’s a huge step going from the American League, or Swedish League, or the KHL (in Russia) to the NHL. The reality is the best players in the world are in the NHL and it’s difficult to play, and more so for goalies and defensemen.

“Physically he’s strong enough and he’s mature enough and has enough hockey sense to play. Can he adapt to the speed and excel in the league, time will tell.”

►Yzerman said he’s talked with coach Jeff Blashill regarding naming new alternate captains, but who will replace the departed Luke Glendening and Frans Nielsen won’t be announced until closer to the start of the regular season.

►Yzerman is looking forward to the competition for jobs in the lineup.

“That makes for a more interesting training camp,” Yzerman said. “I expect, and expect the players all recognize, whether it’s Bobby Ryan coming on a professional tryout or Moritz Seider (competing for a lineup berth), any of the players, they have a lot to play for.

“I am looking forward to watching all the new faces and see how the players within our organization who’ve been here respond to the opportunity to get a bigger role and to compete with some of the younger players or new faces for those spots.

“I hope our record is better than last  year, but truthfully, time will tell.”

►Yzerman said defenseman Jared McIsaac (concussion), who was stretchered off the ice during Sunday’s tournament game, hasn’t been cleared to play and is in concussion protocol.

“I don’t have a time frame for him on when he’ll return, whether it’s days or weeks, but it’s encouraging he’s feeling better each day,” Yzerman said.

►Being back in Traverse City for the first time since the pandemic began, the Wings’ training camp is getting closer to what it felt like pre-pandemic — but not quite all the way there yet.

“From the sense of a player environment, it’s getting closer to what we are used to, there’s still protocols in place,” Yzerman said. “Having our building the ability to have full capacity is very exciting and motivating for everybody.

“The whole world is adjusting and the NHL, we’re adjusting to things being a little bit different. (In the NHL) people have done a good job of being responsible and cooperative.”

►Yzerman was “pleasantly surprised” with the performance of forward Kirill Tyutayev in the prospects tournament.

“He excelled, did very well,” Yzerman said. “The competitiveness and skill, I would add to it his hockey sense was very noticeable. He knows how to play the game. He gets it. He knows where to go and what to do with the puck.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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