Oh, how the times have turned.
In the John Ferguson Jr. and Cliff Fletcher days of the Toronto Maple Leafs, prospects were either traded away or rushed to the NHL, Luke Schenn being an example of the latter. Fans would clamor that the Leafs gave up on a player too soon or that he was not ready for the NHL.
Now that the Leafs are letting their prospects develop more in the juniors and with the Toronto Marlies, fans are disappointed that players aren’t making their debuts sooner. The latest example is Tyler Biggs.
The Leafs drafted Biggs with the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. They even traded up to get him.
Now, Biggs was never going to light up the NHL, even though there were some that compared his game to that of Milan Lucic. However, the fact that the first-round pick has taken so long to make it to the NHL, has angered some fans.
Biggs had this to say as the Marlies closed out their season after being eliminated in the AHL’s Western Conference Finals.
I love the Toronto market and how passionate they are… I can understand where they’re coming from when you have a first-round draft pick who isn’t putting up numbers. At the same time, I wasn’t drafted to score goals. I play a certain role… The whole year was an experience for me, learning how how to become a professional, learning how to handle certain situations, handle adversity… I saw a lot of it this year, sometimes with injuries, sometimes not being in the lineup when you wanted to be.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been extremely safe with their late first-round picks. Players like Biggs, Stuart Percy and Frederik Gauthier should all play in the NHL one day but they probably won’t be making many appearances in the top six forwards or the top four d-men in Percy’s case. They have taken more risks with higher first-round picks and their second-round picks.
There is one team in the NHL that has been known for drafting well and then developing them properly. For the longest time, players didn’t play full-time with the Wings until they were nearly 25 years old.
If the Leafs can start mimicking that development system, they should get better in the long run. Biggs is only 21, perhaps with more development time, he will turn out to be a better prospect than he appears to be at the moment.
Biggs and other prospects the Leafs have need to have time before they can make an impact in the NHL. It’s no surprise the Marlies most likely to make the Leafs next season have been waiting a long time, such as Jerry D’Amigo, Peter Holland and Petter Granberg.