The list of injuries in Columbus this season has created opportunity for a handful of players who probably wouldn’t have seen the NHL this year. One of those players is 22 year old defenseman Tim Berni, who has quietly provided stability to the third defense pair for the Blue Jackets.
Originally taken in the 6th round (#159 overall) of the 2018 draft, Berni is one of those players who has been consistently overlooked in the system. He’s never been a big point producer, scoring just 26 points in 3 seasons (138 games) playing in his native Switzerland – then just 15 points in 72 games with the Cleveland Monsters last season – but he’s a guy who just goes about his job calmly and effectively.
He joined the Jackets after a long list of other players were called up and given their cups of coffee, but after several were called up and sent back down or scratched – Tim has carved out a roster spot for himself. Skating alongside free agent signee Erik Gudbranson, the two may be one of the oddest tandems in the league, but somehow it works.
Berni is undersized for an NHL defenseman by typical standards, checking in at 6’0″ and just 180 or so pounds. But he’s strong on his skates and does a nice job in transition, able to use his edgework to move the puck or get into better position and break up plays.
He has a good stick defensively and does a good job reading plays as they develop. Simply put, while he doesn’t stand out for any one thing, he doesn’t stand out in a bad way either. He just makes the smart play, the easy decision, and goes on to the next shift.
Paired with a physical, stay at home presence like Gudbranson, Berni’s simplistic style of play has made for a quick adjustment to the league. The two have a natural chemistry and they work well together because they both want to keep it simple and move the puck the other way.
While Tim is never likely going to be a big point producer in the NHL, he’s an effective all-around defenseman who is eating up depth minutes in the league. The important thing to remember is that he’s just 22 years old, and only in his second year in North America. With 16 games under his belt, it’s encouraging to see him providing a steady presence – especially in the wake of so many injuries.
He’s going to have his work cut out for him to keep a job here long-term because of the talent and depth in the prospect pool, but for the time being he seems like a player who has earned the trust of the coaching staff and can play in all situations. In a dark, forgettable season, he’s been a quiet positive.