Tyler Biggs has an uphill battle to earn the trust of the Maple Leafs faithful.
At the 2011 Entry Draft, Brian Burke swapped the 30th pick in the draft (acquired from Boston in the Tomas Kaberle trade) and their own 2nd round pick (39th) to move up to 22nd in the draft and select Biggs, the big physical forward from the US National Development Team. As the team had surrendered its own first round picks in 2010 and 2011 in acquiring Phil Kessel from the Bruins, Biggs would be the first player to be selected by the Leafs in the first round of the draft since Nazem Kadri in 2009.
The selection was not particularly well received.
I don't like Tyler Biggs as a prospect, and like with the Russian prospects I should state again that this is not based on the recent Under-18's, but rather based on my long-term evaluation of Biggs. He skates fine, and well for a big guy, projects very well in the physical game, can shoot the puck and flashes offensive skill here and there. However he just doesn't do enough good things over a substantial sample size to warrant consideration into a higher ranking in my opinion. Overall, he's all right with the puck, but there are moments where he'll be decent, and moments where he looks like his hands are made of rock. His hockey IQ is fringe, and doesn't have the right combination of skills to project as a scorer. Biggs will be a player you throw out there to jet around, bang bodies, score a few here and there and maybe plant in front of the net on a power play, but there's simply too much wrong in key areas and not enough right in others to supplement that to think he's anything but a lower-tier prospect.
- Corey Pronman, Puck Prospectus
Corey Pronman is by no means perfect in his evaluations (he's well known for all but ignoring goaltenders as prospects, and as a whole I think he overrates players in Detroit's system), but he lays out some of Biggs' deficiencies as a player. His offensive skills were considered to be limited compared to some of the other players available at his slot in the draft.
This post is not about whether Biggs was the right pick or not. Biggs is a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, one that possesses a good mix of size, skill and physicality, and that was the reason for Biggs being chosen as the #17 player on our Top 25 Under 25.
Biggs is currently playing at Miami (Ohio) in the NCAA. If that school sounds familiar, it should. Miami was the school that Brian Burke's son Brendan attended (and served as the men's hockey team student manager) before he was killed in a car accident in February 2010). The Burke connection likely played into Biggs' decision to attend Miami instead of joining the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
Biggs is one of just two true freshman on the team (the other is pint-sized scorer and USA World Junior representative Austin Czarnik), and at 18 years old Biggs has been holding his own, scoring 4 goals and 9 points in 20 games (as of this writing).
The biggest knock against Biggs has always been that his scoring prowess is limited compared to others selected around him, and 9 points in 20 games doesn't scream "offensive superstar". But remember these two things; first, Biggs is an 18 year old playing with players anywhere from 18 - 25 years old. The age disparity in the NCAA can be quite significant, and Biggs is earning invaluable experience playing against older, stronger players.
The second fact to consider is that only the truly elite players are relied upon in key roles as college freshmen. Many first-year college players see limited or no action, and for Biggs to be contributing to a Miami team that will aspire to a national championship speaks to his skill as a player.
Biggs has the power forward skillset Burke has been coveting to add to the Leafs, and Biggs will be given the opportunity to develop slowly through college and the minors. It will probably be a few years before we see if this player can make an impact at the pro level.
The polarizing status of Biggs as a prospect can be seen in his rankings. Our panel was decidely split in his place on the list, three putting him inside the top 15, and three ranking him outside the top 20. Birky matched the consensus voting him as #17.
Skinnyfish explains his decision to put Biggs at #13.
Why do I have Tyler Biggs ranked so high compared to the others? Simply because the possibilities for him are less understood than they are for, say, Jerry D'Amigo. Biggs has size, at 6'2" 210lbs at only 18 years old. That's bigger than Nikolai Kulemin, who I believe would be a good example for Biggs' ceiling as a hockey player. Not the 30g, 30a Nikolai Kuelmin mind you, but the 20g 20a 2nd/3rd line tweener who can move up or down just fine depending on the team's need. But to do that, he'll need to use his years in Miami working on the defensive side of his game because I highly doubt he'll be able to make it in the NHL based on just his offence.