July 15 2013 11:02AM
Something we'll start to notice this summer is that in roster projections like the one I had this morning, Tyler Biggs or Josh Leivo are going to be slotted in to make the team. This isn't a bad thing. There's a roster spot open and two equal players that are going to be challenging for it, both young players with a few games of pro experience to wind up on a depth spot on an NHL roster.
Leivo was taken with the 86th pick in the 2011 draft while the Leafs traded up to take Biggs in the same draft at No. 22. In doing so, they forfeited a high 2nd round selection to take a player with marginal offensive upside. In the video above, Tyler Biggs' comparable player is Colby Armstrong, a player that needed four years of AHL seasoning and became a marginally-good top six forward until becoming a replacement-level checking forward the day he turned 27.
There's nothing wrong with needing Colby Armstrongs or third-line forwards on your roster, but the Colby Armstrongs of the world are available every free agent summer. There's little sense in drafting a player of which many different versions exist. With two years of hindsight, it's easy to look now and say that perhaps Brandon Saad, Ty Rattie or Boone Jenner would have been better selections, but they also displayed some offensive eptitude (it's the opposite of ineptitude) in their draft seasons.
There's also nothing wrong with Biggs. He's an offensive zone guy that established possession in the zone and a big forward that helped the
Ottawa 67s Oshawa Generals cycle the puck. It's just that you get the impression that he'll never be a top six forward within a reasonable amount of time in the NHL. He simply doesn't have offensive sense that makes him little more than replacement-level at this point. Having a good supporting cast is great, but there are still some good UFAs that play the wing in a checking role that could come pretty cheap. Size is overvalued at the NHL draft and it isn't just the Leafs that take big players far too early.
If Biggs makes the NHL he's a success. Still, it looks to be unlikely that he makes it in any legitimate capacity this season. He had just 53 points in 60 games this season as a 19-year-old. At 149th overall, Austen Brassard is the first OHL forward taken after the Leafs first pick in 2011 that did not outscore Biggs in the OHL last season. Josh Leivo, who was a bit of a project pick at 86th, managed 73 points in 63 games and, as we've mentioned, is just as good a bet to make the Leafs.
"I thought there was a little bit more individual talent in the OHL, guys that will be franchise-type players," Biggs said. "At the same time, in the college game guys are a little older and bigger, and that can make it difficult for a young player to beat them down low sometimes. In the OHL I was able to be more of an impact player down low and create space for my linemates. I was also put in a position with Oshawa to have more offensive opportunities. It allowed me to try to do things more on my own from time to time, especially being a big body-player -- a power forward."
By Biggs' own admission, he couldn't compete with the NCAA players. He told NHL.com's Mike Brophy that "joining the Generals allowed him to compete against players in his own age group". That's not going to be a thing at the NHL-level.
Here's another one, but this is for his OHL numbers:
Perhaps because he wasn't used to such a long and demanding schedule coupled with the fact he played for the United States at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, it appeared he ran out of gas late in the season. Biggs does not buy into that theory, even though he managed one assist in nine playoff games with Oshawa.
Biggs refuted that as well. "I was still doing great on the penalty kill and defensively. I was shutting down top lines."
It's difficult to dispute those notions because data collection in the OHL is limited at best. I don't judge NHL players by goals and points so it's unfair to judge NHL players by goals and points, but the goals and points need to come from somebody, and they come much cheaper if they come during RFA years.
More importantly, if Biggs is on your projected roster and you're attempting to tally goals for the next year, don't assume he's an offensive dynamo simply because he was a first round pick.