Each week leading up to the June draft, DetroitRedWings.com will feature a top prospect that they believe will likely be available late in the first round.
Today's feature: TYLER BIGGS, F, USA NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT TEAM
If Tyler Biggs wasn't such an extraordinarily talented hockey player for the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-18 team, he might be wearing military fatigues serving his country somewhere.
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, I think."
That Biggs bleeds red, white and blue despite holding dual U.S./Canada citizenship (his parents are Canadian) is one reason 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.
"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 is No. 22 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft, a drop of 17 spots from his No. 5 position in the mid-term rakings, released in January. In his first full season with the Under-18 Team, Biggs had 19 goals, 31 points and a team-leading 161 penalty minutes in 55 games. In 15 international games, he had 6 goals and 10 points.
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.
Biggs also represented the U.S. and won gold medals in the last two International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 World Championships. At this year's tournament, in Crimmitschau, Germany, Biggs' overtime goal gave the U.S. a 5-4 semifinal-round victory against Canada, and he finished the tournament with 2 goals, 3 points, a plus-3 rating and 49 penalty minutes in six games as the U.S. won a third straight gold medal.
In 13 games with the USNTDP under-18 team last season, he had a goal and 2 points while appearing in all seven games with the U.S. team that captured the gold medal at the 2010 World U-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 the U.S. outscored the opposition 26-11.
Following the Entry Draft, Biggs will continue his career at Miami University (Ohio), located 40 minutes from his current home in 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."
He wears jersey No. 22 since it's the same number his father, Don, wore in a 16-year professional hockey career that included stints with the NHL's Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.
Don Biggs was drafted by the North Stars in the eighth round (No. 156) of the 1983 Entry Draft. Tyler no doubt will be taken sooner than that -- and not only because the Draft now only has seven rounds. Tyler even could hear his name called as early as the opening round on June 24.
"To be drafted in the same state that was home to my father in the early years of his professional career is pretty cool," Biggs said. "It's exciting and it's coming soon."
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 wear the USA jersey on a daily basis has been a 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. "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."