Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer
If Tyler Biggs wasn't such an extraordinarily talented hockey player for the U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program, he very well might be wearing military fatigues and serving the country somewhere overseas.
There's no doubt about it -- Biggs is a proud American.
"I take pride in representing my country and I guess, for me, (the military) was definitely an idea," Biggs told NHL.com. "I can't see myself doing much more than hockey, but then there was always that (military). I have the utmost respect for our servicemen and women and to be a part of something like that would mean a lot to me."
That Biggs bleeds red, white and blue despite holding dual U.S./Canada citizenship (his parents are Canadian) probably is why he was a unanimous choice as captain for the USNTDP's U-18 team this season.
"I've always been a guy who has led by example more than anything," said Biggs, who was born in Binghamton, N.Y. "I think if something truly needs to be said, I'm going to say it and my teammates understand that, but for the most part, staying positive on the bench and keeping the guys going is all a part of being a captain.
"And if I need to change the momentum, whether it's with a big hit or big shift or even a fight, I'd definitely be able to do it."
At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Biggs rarely is intimidated. He skates well, is physical, tough and can effectively attack the net with or without the puck.
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"He has that leadership quality … that desire, that passion, that competitiveness," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "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 was ranked No. 5 among North American skaters available for the 2011 Entry Draft in Central Scouting's mid-term report in January, and has done nothing since then to disappoint. In his first full season with the U-18 Team, Biggs has 17 goals, 28 points and a team-leading 112 penalty minutes (including three fights) in 48 games. In eight international games, he has scored 4 goals and 7 points. Biggs finished ranked 22nd among North American Skaters.
"I didn't expect (a No. 5 rating), but the rankings were on my mind, especially this year," he said. "I'm just trying to take it a game at a time and let all that other stuff kind of take care of itself."
Biggs, who compares his style of play to that of Calgary's Jarome Iginla, considers his size and strength two of his strongest assets.
"I'm going to play in my own end as much as I do in the offensive end," Biggs said. "I take pride in getting the puck out and doing the little things, but I'm a big body and I have speed so I'm going to try and use that to my advantage. I'll take pucks to the net and drive the net hard on a rush."
The bottom line on Biggs is that he's going to play physical and he will get shots to the net.
"Tyler is a physical presence out there and he makes room for a lot of our skilled players," USNTDP U-18 coach Ron Rolston told NHL.com.
In 13 games with the U-18 team last season, he had a goal and an assist while appearing in all seven games with the U.S. team that captured the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Belarus. Biggs also played a part in his team's four-game sweep in the U-18 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic in February, as Team USA outscored the opposition 26-11.
"Five Nations was great because we were the top dog and proved it," Biggs said. "We went there and showed it. We dominated, and representing your country like that and having success is really special."
"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." - NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee
Next fall, Biggs will continue his career at the University of Miami, which is located 40 minutes from his current home of Cincinnati. Biggs also had offers from Michigan and Notre Dame.
"Right off the bat I had a great relationship with the (Miami) coaching staff and just the atmosphere during a game was incredible," Biggs said. "It doesn't hurt that the school is less than an hour away from a home-cooked meal, either."
Prior to joining the NTDP, Biggs had 40 goals and 87 points in 72 games with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens AAA team in 2008-09. He admits the success there spurred him to continue playing hockey for as long as he could.
"That was a huge year for me," Biggs said. "I knew that if I wanted to get to the next level, I would have to get out there and I had all my family in Toronto, so I think that helped. I had a good year and things took off from there. One thing led to another and I was eventually given a chance to play for the (USNTDP) and took it."
Having the opportunity to don the USA jersey on a daily basis has been an absolute dream for Biggs.
"A big part of the U-17 year was getting bigger and stronger and getting used to the faster play and bigger guys," Biggs said of the USNTDP, which plays the majority of its games in the USHL, the only Tier I junior league in the U.S. "This year, the coaches have helped me and I've helped myself in adapting into a role and learning that role. When things go wrong, I just focus on the little things and what I should be doing. Taking that approach can turn a game around, so that's what I've focused on most of the year." Follow Mike Morreale on Twitters at: @mike_morreale