Big forward Berti returning to Gladiators

As a player under contract with the Chicago Blackhawks for the last three years, it hasn't been up to Adam Berti where he plays.

When it was up to him, Berti signed with the Gwinnett Gladiators.

The Blackhawks, who selected the big left winger in the third round of the 2004 draft, opted not to renew Berti's initial three-year deal.

The 23-year-old free agent decided to return to the Gladiators - a team he unexpectedly joined in December.

Berti came to Gwinnett midway through the 2008-09 season when the Blackhawks' ECHL affiliate in Fresno folded abruptly. A skilled playmaker, Berti became a major cog in the Gladiators' offense and finished with 34 points in 39 regular-season games.

"You've got a kid that's got great character, is hard-working and doesn't complain about anything," Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle said. "He's got size, he's pretty tough, plus he's got skill and he's a great leader."

Pyle said Berti and his agent were committed to signing with the Gladiators early in the offseason.

"But I thought he might get a chance at the next level," Pyle said.

He will, in part thanks to other talks Pyle had this summer.

Gwinnett recently became the ECHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pyle mentioned Berti to them. The Blue Jackets were interested and Berti is going to their AHL camp in Syracuse.

"It depends how he plays, but he has the option to start there, that's for sure," Pyle said.

If Berti does end up with Gladiators at the beginning of the season, Pyle will certainly be happy to make use of the 6-foot-3 forward's many talents.

"I look at him to be the first-line left wing and be a good leader," Pyle said.

Berti spent the better part of his first two pro seasons in the AHL, including the entirety of his rookie campaign with Norfolk. He's also already made his NHL debut, playing two games for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007-08.

The vast majority of his major junior career was spent playing for his hometown Oshawa Generals and Berti finished with 96 goals and 166 points in 209 OHL games.