October 20, 2014
TORONTO — Tyler Biggs has had difficulties finding success in Toronto, so it was time for management to get him out of the city.
The 21-year-old was one of five Toronto prospects demoted last week to the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, however he was the only one who is a former first-round pick. While hearing his name called as the 22nd overall selection in 2011 was a happy moment for Biggs, now it has become more of a burden.
“He’s got to go and maybe play out of the spotlight that we have here in Toronto, he just has to go find his game,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen. “Sometimes he really felt the onus of being a top pick, the recognition of him. He’s got to go down there and just get back to his attributes that got him here in the first place.”
“There’s a lot of media here, a lot of recognition of where guys are placed. I would think it’s on him a little bit whether it’s from agents, fans or wherever. It wasn’t placed from our management group. Everybody has their own learning curve and knowing Tyler he’ll do his best to get there.”
Biggs was selected by former Leaf general manager Brian Burke because of his size rather than skill set. Burke even traded picks with Anaheim to move up to draft him. At 18-year-old he was already in a man’s body and now stands six-foot-two 225 pounds. But the rest of his game, including skating and hand work, hasn’t developed as quickly as expected.
Last season with the Marlies Biggs was being groomed into a bottom-six role on the right wing, playing some penalty kill while doing so. He finished the year with just seven goals and nine points in 57 games. That same opportunity this season isn’t there, which is a main reason why he’s skating with Orlando.
“Lots of ice time, he’ll play in every situation, probably wasn’t going to do that (in Toronto) and that’s the biggest thing,” said Dineen.
“By no means is it something where he’s gone to Orlando and he’s banished. We told him to go be the best player there and knock the door down to make us bring you back.”
Perhaps adding to the pressure Biggs has felt is the fact that Stuart Percy — who the Leafs drafted three spots after the Ohio native — made his NHL debut this year for Toronto and is currently still on the big club’s roster. Furthermore, of the 30 first-round picks in 2011, 21 have seen NHL game action at some point and only Biggs has played professional hockey at level lower than the AHL.
“It’s a fragile thing sometimes, that confidence level,” said Dineen. “I’ve been on that side of it myself and when you’re being sent down and didn’t expect it and you have ideas of where you should be… I felt bad for all the guys that were sent down. They’re hard words to hear, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Biggs made his Orlando debut this weekend in a double header and dropped the gloves in both outings. He has one assist and 14 penalty minutes with two shots on net.
Forwards Ryan Rupert and Brad Ross, defenceman Eric Knodel and goaltender Garret Sparks were also demoted with Biggs.