Tyler Biggs: In General

Tyler Biggs is in the spotlight early in his Ontario Hockey League career and I wanted to put up a few thoughts on the Leafs first round draft pick.

Drafted outside of the grasp of the agreement restricting players entry directly into the Amercian Hockey League, Leafs 1st round selection in 2011, (22nd overall) Biggs had the option of leaping directly on to the Toronto Marlies. Aside from size, Biggs wasn’t ready for the AHL.

Suiting up for Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League seemed the logical placement.

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Serving a dual purpose there’s the added benefit of learning the grind of a heavier schedule, something Biggs had yet to experience having played a career season high 37 games at the University of Miami (Ohio). A full OHL season will test his endurance and alter his approach to future season’s expectations of intensity and longevity, especially at higher levels.

Biggs has been analyzed and then dissected and then constantly updated early on in Oshawa.

Steve Burtch at Pension Plan Puppets broke down statistical analysis versus other prospect, Josh Leivo and there are countless others analyses available with a simple Google search.

When he made the decision to leave University he pointed out a few items that he felt he needed to work on over the summer and those items remained true then as they do today. 

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Biggs told the Dayton paper he hopes to work on his skating this summer and needs to develop more of a shooter’s mentality.

“I got a lot better this year, but I need to get to the net more,” Biggs said. “I think that’ll come.”

I wanted to track his progression on both accounts. It was interesting to see the shooter’s mentality appear as an item to actively develop over the off season.

This is also evident early in the season, firing away almost as fast as the puck hits his blade. During a game against Brampton a few weeks ago, he certainly put this shooter’s mentality on display, scoring twice, once off a turnover in the slot and the other a short side open net after he did the right thing to stop in front of the goal.

Getting to the net will certainly enhance his overall counting numbers, especially in the immediate future. Absences to Lucas Lessio with a hand injury and suspended Scott Laughton create a mid-to-long term void up front and the need to balance out the scoring. Generals coaches temporarily moved Biggs to a second unit in their most recent 3-2 shootout loss to Peterborough on Sunday. He was separated from Boone Jenner, to promote balanced scoring, but by the end of the game, Biggs had been reinserted alongside Jenner once again.

Staring off with his skating, Biggs showed an improved first step, but still a work in progress. He has good straightaway speed and is learning to incorporate more directional shifts and stops/starts, something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

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His puck skills and offensive creativity have been the most questioned aspects of his game, and that’s not without warrant.

I’ve noticed how little he actually carries and touches the puck. Once he gets it in the neutral zone or even when digging pucks out from along the boards, his first reaction seems to be to get it to a teammate. His individual stick skills are somewhat rigid and raw, and he doesn’t bull his way to the net often enough with the puck. When he is carrying the puck he doesn’t stickhandle, rather, he pushes it ahead out of reach of opponents and incorporating prime protection skills.

Biggs excels using his hockey sense and penchant for being around pucks in the offensive zone, fighting for space in front and pucks along the boards, cycling deep and throwing his body around. Big and strong he is exceptional at protecting the puck under pressure and forces players to use their sticks or try to hold him to stop his momentum. It’s a good quality to draw penalties. Adding an improved net presence will only help, but there’s been evidence of him developing a greater shooter’s mentality.

He can panic at times without much space and in opposition traffic. His distribution intentions are clear, but he doesn’t execute with the precision, something I feel will come along with experience and playing time.

Of course, Biggs contributions are supposed to be on both sides of the puck, as indicated by Dave Poulin.

“He’s playing a complete game as we hoped,” Poulin said. “We liked it, too, that he is being challenged a few times by his coach (DJ Smith). If something happens, we’ve seen Tyler get sat him out a shift, but he responds.”

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He can be still be guilty of lead feet, coasting and stopping short of the puck carrier in defensive pursuits, something he has to improve on to get to the complete game to which Poulin referred.

There is still a lot to learn for the young power forward, but these are the items I’ve focused on to see improvements. I certainly don’t expect a full on improvement across the board, but developing better puck skills and learning to exploit his size and strength to muscle his way to the net would be a good start to better scoring ability in the pros.

I came across this as I searched for some background material. 

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An interesting graphic at the time the Leafs Brian Burke was at the podium announcing the draft pick. Bob McKenzie had Biggs as the next highest ranked prospect and looking at that list, Jenner’s name jumps right out.

While he’s certainly been a huge part of the Oshawa Generals offense, Jenner too is successful based on a hard work and exceptional two-way play hockey sense.

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His work ethic, drive and stamina will make him successful in the NHL, but I feel he exhibits better two-way skills associated with a third line center as opposed to the pure scorer and point producer he’s showing at this level. I think a good third line center with a scoring touch is an exceptional value.

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