December 8, 2014
TORONTO– Looking to maximize what they can get out of Tyler Biggs, the Marlies have started to experiment with the 21-year-old at centre.
Biggs lined up down the middle on Sunday for Toronto against the Rochester Americans and found the role to, perhaps, suit his style of play more than on the right wing.
“Being defensively responsible is kind of the way I’ve always been as a player and maybe it’s the right spot for my game, I don’t know,” said Biggs after his club’s 3-0 win. “It’s a little bit of an adjustment, it’s not exactly natural, but coming along gradually.”
The six-foot-3, 225 pound forward has had difficulty staying in the Marlies’ every day lineup in his regular position since turning pro last season and found himself demoted to the ECHL early this year with the club having an over abundance of wingers. But if moving to centre increases his chances of more ice time then he’s more than willing to make the transition permanently.
“It’s a position where you can get caught out there, you have to be able to get low and then jump into a play. I think it’s more endurance than anything for me at that position. I take pride in that responsibility (though) and hope to get another opportunity.
The Ohio native, who was selected in the first round in 2011 by former Leaf brass led by GM Brian Burke, has played centre in the past for Toronto, but usually only on the penalty kill. On Sunday, however, he took the game’s opening face-off with David Broll to his left and Troy Bodie to his right and stayed there the rest of the contest. The three big bodies failed to produce any offence, with four combined shots on goal, but coach Gord Dineen was pleased with what they brought against Rochester.
“He’s a big guy, when you look at the two guys on his wings tonight I wouldn’t want to play against them,” said Dineen. “They all have speed and are all physical, they create their offence that way.”
Another reason why Biggs has been given the chance at centre is because the Marlies are lacking quality players at the position. Currently Greg McKegg is out with a lower-body injury and captain Trevor Smith is up with the Maple Leafs— leaving Sam Carrick and recent ECHL call-up Ryan Rupert filling in top-six roles while Carson McMillan and Patrick Watling, two guys on AHL contracts, playing the other two spots.
Since turning pro Biggs has struggled to produce offensively at the AHL level, however his brief stint earlier in the year with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears saw him register four goals and six points in eight games. The biggest reason, according to Biggs, for finding a scoring touch was the opportunity given at that level. Instead of playing a fourth-line role, he was given top-six minutes, power-play time and a chance to play every game.
“When I went down I had time just to play, enjoy the game,” said Biggs . “When you’re playing in a position where you’re limited minutes and you’re playing a certain role you’re not playing when they drafted you, having that opportunity to do it again and do it a lot made a world of difference…I felt way better afterwards.”
“He went down there, didn’t pout when he got the demotion,” added Dineen. “He’s starting to feel it a little bit more on the offensive side and we know he has those abilities.”
Biggs first described his time in the ECHL as, “a step backwards” for his career but realized in the end it was important for his development. While he still has a long way to go before being on the big club’s radar for a call-up, going from the ECHL to the Maple Leafs in less than 18 months has been done before. Carrick completed the feat this year when he made his Leafs debut one year removed from time spent with the Idaho Steelheads.
“Every one’s different and it’s how you handle it yourself personally,” said Biggs.