TORONTO - Forever bonded by their similar 2011 draft status, Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy will be looking to put their initial seasons as Maple Leafs prospects far behind them.
Biggs, the 22nd pick by the Leafs, left the University of Miami at Ohio after one mediocre year and Percy, selected 25th by Toronto, missed half of the 2011-12 season with injuries, but they’re at the Leafs’ annual summer prospects camp with refreshed attitudes.
“I thought there were parts I got to work on, and at the same time, I think there were parts of my game I didn’t really get to work on,” Biggs said of his one and only season in the NCAA, during which he had nine goals and eight assists in 37 games.
“There’s nothing negative or anything like that as far as the program goes. (Leaving college) is just something I wanted to do for my career.”
Biggs has been in Toronto for the past month, working with new Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill on his quickness. But though Leafs director of player development Jim Hughes reminded the 42 prospects at this camp on Sunday night that Matt Frattin, Jake Gardiner and Ben Scrivens were in the camp last year, implying that some in attendance can or will crack the Leafs roster in training camp, the feeling is Biggs has to gain more experience.
And that could very well happen with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, who have Biggs’ major-junior rights.
“We’ll see how it all falls into place,” Hughes said. “He’ll wind up with the big club or the Marlies or the Generals, and that would be a fantastic spot for him where he can get plenty of minutes of ice time.
“He’s a beast of a kid. We expect big things from him this summer.”
Percy managed to make it into the Marlies lineup during the playoffs and has set a goal of appearing in an exhibition game for the Leafs this fall. He knows the organization likes its depth on defence, but was not discouraged when the Leafs used their first two picks on defencemen in Morgan Rielly and Matt Finn at the entry draft in Pittsburgh in June.
“We have a good young core now on D,” Percy said. “Last year, there was a (Jesse) Blacker-Gardiner kind of rivalry, but you see them off the ice and they like to hang out. There is the rivalry, but you still have to have fun with it.
“I was really grateful to get in a couple of games with the Marlies, get a feel for the speed. Players are better, stronger, faster. That was the biggest difference in the AHL. Hopefully that will help me throughout this camp and the main camp.”
RHAPSODY IN BLUE
It’s barely a week into his life as a Maple Leafs prospect, and defenceman Morgan Rielly already has witnessed changes.
“There have been people who have approached me saying, ‘Can I have your picture,’ which is all new to me,” Rielly said Monday at the team’s prospects camp.
“I’m completely okay with (the extra attention). I couldn’t be happier.”
The 18-year-old was selected fifth overall by the Leafs at the entry draft in Pittsburgh on June 22. His father, Andy, is just as excited as some fans.
“He has been pretty worked up and he has been wearing that draft jersey around all week,” Rielly said. “I have to take it away from him.”
Barring a near-perfect performance in training camp, Rielly will be heading back to the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League for the 2012-13 season.