MINNEAPOLIS — The bigger the better has long been one of Brian Burke’s major mantras in building a forward contingent and the Leafs general manager took what he feels will be a nice step in that direction here Friday night.
Trading his 30th and 39th picks with the Anaheim Ducks for the 22nd selection, Burke collared bruising American forward Tyler Biggs.
Known for his ability to dominate games physically — he has been described as a fullback on ice — Biggs had a stock answer at the scouting combine when teams asked him what NHLer he resembled most closely: Milan Lucic.
“Going through the combine I think that’s the one guy that I tried to compare myself too if they asked,” Biggs said, moments after being picked. “He’s a great player. It’s definitely a good year to say you compare yourself to him.
“If I could be half of where he is right now, I’d be happy.”
Pretty sure the Leafs would feel the same way as a starting point.
As Burke said he would prior to the draft, he made a move with two of his picks to get a higher selection to get his man. Just three picks later, the team used their second first-rounder on Mississauga St. Michael’s defenceman and Oakville native, Stuart Percy.
How big and tough is Biggs? Put it this way, it is believed he set an unofficial record by piling up 112 minutes with the national development team. “It’s not something I’m trying to brag about right now.”
“He’s a really tough player to play against,” said a U.S. hockey official. “All our coaches tell us he’s the kind of player it’s tough to handle, a player you don’t want to go into the corner with.
Biggs, meanwhile, has some familiarity with the Toronto hockey having spent his minor midget season in the city where he played for the Jr. Canadians of GTHL. He made the move essentially to refine his game — “it’s one of the best minor hockey leagues in the world and I wanted to have the opportunity for more exposure” Biggs said — but also to spend some time with his aunts, uncles and cousins who live in the GTA. As tough as he is, it’s unlikely the Leafs will rush Biggs into the NHL. In fact, he said on Friday he plans to play NCAA hockey at the Miami of Ohio this winter. When asked whether he would consider junior hockey in Canada, however, Biggs wouldn’t rule it out.
“I think I am your prototypical power forward that can try to do it all,” Biggs said. “I like to play with an edge and play very physical and I have an offensive side as well.”
When it was announced that the Leafs had traded up to get the 22nd pick, Biggs had a hunch where he would be going.
“It definitely went through my head that I could get picked,” Biggs said. “With them being my favourite team ... but you never really know.”
As for their second pick, the Leafs had scouted Percy throughout his junior season down the road in Mississauga, but apparently became most impressed with his performance in the Majors run through the OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup.
Percy said Burke made that point to him when they met on the stage after the selection.
“He said ‘We had you on our radar all year long and that you really stepped up and showed you could play in pressure situations,’” said Percy, a 6-foot, 186 pounder who is likely headed for another season in the Ontario Hockey League.
“This is all pretty surreal to me. The hometown boy. It really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Percy, by the way, is such a Leafs fan that he had posters of Tie Domi and Doug Gilmour in his childhood room to go with the Maple Leafs wallpaper.
Even without the 39th pick they surrendered to take Biggs, the Leafs figure to have a busy Saturday here in rounds two through seven. Director of scouting Dave Morrison will next be on the clock at 86 (a pick acquired from Philadelphia in the Kris Versteeg trade), 100, 130, 152 (from Edmonton), 160, 173 (from Anaheim), 190 and 203 (also from Anaheim.).
Meanwhile, when the Bruins selected Niagara Ice Dogs defenceman (and Toronto native) Dougie Hamilton, it finally closed the chapter on the trade that brought Phil Kessel to the Leafs prior to the 2009-10 season. In return for Kessel, the Bruins have Hamilton, Tyler Seguin, who earned a Stanley Cup ring in an up-and-down rookie season plus another centre, Jared Knight, who was selected in the second round (32nd overall) a year ago.