For Part III of our Entry Draft preview series, Blue Line Station takes a look at two young American forwards that spent last season in the National Development Program and the USHL.
Tyler Biggs, RW, USA U-18
Scouts have been unanimous in one thing when defining US National Team Development Program forward Tyler Biggs: he is going to be a leader. Biggs spent the 2010/11 season in the USHL, posting 17 goals and 11 assists in 48 games. It wasn’t his offensive numbers that turned heads though, rather it was his strong two-way game and character performances that locked him in as a likely mid-to-late first-rounder.
Biggs is big, physically ready for the NHL at 6’2 and 210lbs, but seems to lack the offensive ceiling that the Rangers should be looking for in the first round. Character picks are great and we know the Rangers like to make them, but you have to wonder if that should be the primary concern this year. Biggs is a scrapper, prepared to fight and always willing to stick up for his team-mates so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him taken though.
Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee and The Scouting Report provide interesting insights on Biggs’ strengths and weaknesses;
"He has that leadership quality, that desire, that passion, that competitiveness. He just never quits. He’s a young player who has taken the role as leader of his team. He does most of their fighting when they have to fight. He’s kind of the guy that when someone starts picking on somebody, he’s standing up for them. I think while wearing the ‘C’ may have taken a little away from his offensive finish, my gut feeling is that I can’t think of anything else but an uphill path for Tyler."
"Biggs certainly merits consideration as a prospect due to his size, physical play, skating ability and determination. It’s difficult though to see him as a first rounder since he does not possess the offensive skills that would be worthy of such a high pick. Biggs may only top out as a 15-20 goal guy who can provide some grit and nastiness which fits nicely on some clubs but the ceiling doesn’t seem high enough to justify anything other than the second round."
Biggs was the instant selection when I asked The Prospect Park’s Jess Rubenstein about his thoughts on the draft a couple of days ago, citing Biggs’ ability to come up big in key games as one particular reason for his choice. It’s hard to argue either; Biggs has competed in two Under-18 World Championships, winning gold in 2010 and ’11, scoring a crucial overtime winner, his second of the night, against Canada in the semi-finals this year.
I love the leadership aspect of Biggs’ game, but I’d personally like to see the Rangers go with a higher offensive ceiling when picking amongst the likes of Armia, Baertschi, McNeill and Scheifele. The Rangers have grinders, guys that lay it all on the line for the cause, and though you can never have enough of a good thing it’s hard to pass on more talented guys should they be available.
Jonathan Miller, C, USA U-18
Like Biggs, Jonathan ‘J.T.’ Miller spent last season in the USHL as part of the National Development Program.
He too was part of the USA Under-18 side at the World Championships where he led the team with 13 points (4-9) after posting 11-26-37 in the USHL this season.
Miller doesn’t quite have the same physical tools as Biggs, though comparisons have been made between the two in terms of their respective upsides;
"Another pro-sized forward, Miller has the skill to generate chances for his wingers along with the skating ability to beat defenders one-on-one and finish himself. Again, like [Tyler] Biggs, scouts like how he competes; he’ll take a hit to make a play. Scouts aren’t quite sure that he has first-line potential but at the high end scouts see him as a second-line NHLer. (per ESPN.com)"
TSN scout Grant McCagg dissected Miller’s strengths and weaknesses as they released their finalised Top 60 draft-ranking list;
"Strengths – Hard working, versatile forward with a good motor, sees the ice well, effective puckhandler with good puck protection abilities, good along the walls. Powerful straight-ahead skater, drives to the net, smart puck distributor, hard-nosed, likes to throw hits. Weaknesses – Limited agility, more north-south than east-west, not overly creative, lacks finishing skills."
McCagg went on to compare Miller to LA Kings captain Dustin Brown minus the same level of offensive ability. Personally, and this repeats what I said for Tyler Biggs above, but I feel there are players with a higher upside that the Rangers should be looking at as a matter of priority. Miller and Biggs are two players that have all the hallmarks of a Gordie Clark pick; tough, versatile and great team players, but they lack the offensive upside that the Rangers really need to shoot for on Friday.
Both have been projected below the Rangers 15th overall pick in various mock drafts, something which could lead them to trade down in the first-round if either are an intended target. With that said, it wouldn’t surprise me – and I wouldn’t be entirely against it – to see Biggs or Miller taken if the likes of Baertschi, McNeill and Scheifele are off the board.
Check back tomorrow as we take a look at two defensive options, Jamieson Oleksiak and Oscar Klefbom.