December 12th, 2013
TORONTO– Team practice was finished for 20 minutes and Tyler Biggs was still on the ice working on his shot.
This has become a habit for the 20-year-old winger in his first professional season, as he hopes that putting in extra time to work on individual skills long after his Toronto Marlies’teammates have left will hasten his path to the NHL.
“I think a lot of guys (practice shooting) on their own time,” said Biggs. “It’s something you always want to work on in case the opportunity presents itself.”
Biggs has not been placed in many offensive situations through the first two months of the season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate and has just two goals in 21 games.
Leafs’ management believes that the 2011 22nd overall pick’s best chance to contribute at the NHL level will be as a bottom-six forward, who can be held accountable in all zones. With that strategy in mind, Biggs has been playing the right side on the Marlies third line with winger Jamie Devane and centre Andrew Crescenzi, and has yet to see a shift on the power play because scoring goals is not the organization’s main concern.
“It’s molding him and forecasting what he’s going to be for the Leafs, not the Marlies,” said head coach Steve Spott. “We see him as a third or fourth-line, responsible player that can score, check, fight and do all of those things.
“I think it’s important to realize we don’t want to harness or take away his offence. We just feel he has the ability to be a complete, 200-foot player,” added Spott.
Biggs is being used with greater frequency as a penalty killer and is maximizing the opportunity given while playing down a man- one of his two goals came while shorthanded- and he is also filling in at centre when called upon.
“He’s a secondary centre option, which is great,”said Spott. “I trust him and that’s why we allowed him to play centre.”
“I played some centre when I was younger but never took as many draws as I wanted,” said Biggs. “I’ve worked on it and have started getting the timing down…It doesn’t hurt being able to play in different situations and different times.”
At 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, Biggs is one of the larger bodies in the Leafs organization and because of that there are expectations on how he should play every shift. He is embracing the more defensive responsibilities, even if there is no glamour or numbers showing up on a stat sheet.
“You’re definitely the role that goes out when the game’s on the line,” said Biggs. “You’re going to shut people down, block shots and you can earn more ice time by doing it. Nothing’s ever set in stone…You can ask any of the guys on the PK about the feeling you get when you block a shot.”
With many changes within the Leafs organization this past off-season, and the increase of draft picks turning pro, Toronto decided it would start to groom its prospects for specific roles. Despite being a first-round pick, Biggs is no different and the organization has its plan.
“If our players go up it has to be seamless,” said Spott. “It’s not about playing for Steve Spott. It’s about what you can do for Randy Carlyle.”