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Tyler Biggs

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The Toronto Marlies came into this January 30 – February 1 stretch with a three-game road trip on tap in the southern states. The Marlies squared off with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton), San Antonio Rampage (Florida), and the Texas Stars (Dallas).

This was a week to forget for the Marlies, who won one of three games and suffered a 6-0 blowout in one of the losses.

The Leafs wrapped up what was a pretty good weekend by imploding in the third period and losing handily, but that doesn’t take away from some of the positives that were shown overall.

There were some youngsters who had good weekends, others who had very good weekends, and a few who struggled. In other news, the Leafs also have a new player coming to training camp in Mason Raymond.

You know hockey is back when there are actual relevant games and players to talk about all of a sudden. Here are some scattered thoughts on the weekend that was:

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Jim Hughes

MLHS’ Alec Brownscombe caught up with Leafs Director of Player Development Jim Hughes this morning to talk about some of the younger Maple Leafs. While much of the Leafs scouting staff heads to Bratislava next week for the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament, Hughes will be taking in the World Junior exhibition games in Lake Placid. Dominic Toninato will participating for Team USA while Ryan Rupert, Matt Finn, Morgan Rielly and Frederik Gauthier will be playing for Canada.

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Welcome back to the Master Card Centre of Excellence!

I was pleased to be back watching anything affiliated with the Maple Leafs. I was crushed after Game 7, but it all felt okay being back at the rink on this extremely hot summer day in Toronto.

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Brian Burke / Tyler Biggs / Dave Morrison

Earlier this week, the Leafs director of amateur scouting, Dave Morrison, took some time out of his schedule to talk to me.

We ended up speaking for nearly an hour and we went over so much that I decided to break it down by section and quote him where appropriate. So with that, please do not misconstrue anything said below and contact me for clarification if you are unsure about anything.

With all that out of the way, here are the highlights from our chat:

Brenden Morrow Leafs

As trade rumour season heats up and the Toronto Maple Leafs slip in the standings from 5th to 8th in the past week, Leafs Nation will almost certainly be whipped up into a frenzy over every name mentioned. While we aren’t a rumour website, we are within 19 days of the deadline and there has been some legitimate talk from *actual* members of the media and evidence of three teams in different conferences scouting each other heavily that don’t normally do so.

A lot can change depending on the Leafs position in the standings in the eight games before the deadline, but the Leafs figure to be, theoretically, both buyers and sellers. Granted, in a lockout-shortened season it’s hard to ascertain what the nature of the landscape will be – or if there will be much movement at all – at a deadline where so many teams will still believe in the legitimacy of their playoff hopes. A buyers-heavy market could lend itself to moving out a few free agents-to-be and not so much to adding pieces at a reasonable price.

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Among certain members of the mainstream media covering the Leafs, there seems to be this idea that won’t go away where Tyler Bozak will name Mikhail Grabovski’s $5.5 million as his starting point if he is going to negotiate a new contract with Dave Nonis.

You don’t need me to tell you it doesn’t make any sense.

Welcome back, Josh Leivo.

After missing time with a concussion, Leivo returned to the Sudbury Wolves lineup last week and he did so with a vengeance.  The Wolves had 3 games in 3 nights this weekend and Leivo put up 2 goals and 5 assists.  Leivo now has 34 points in 29 games on a pretty weak Sudbury team.

Forget all that I’ve said about Tyler Biggs to date because he’s decided that he’s a completely different player.  It’s almost as though he read what I wrote in this space a week ago.  In 3 games last week, Biggs wasn’t rushing with the puck on his stick, he parked himself inches from the goalie’s face when setting his screens, and generally just asserted his will on the game in a way that I had rarely seen in the first 15 games of the year.

Well, Biggs was rewarded with 6 points in 3 games including a 4-point effort in Sunday’s game.  He’s back to being a point-per-game player in his first season in the OHL after his line went through a mini-slump for a few games recently.  If he can keep this up moving forward, I’ll have to re-evaluate my projections for him.  It’s only a 3 game stretch but suffice to say, I was very impressed with what I saw.

Connor Brown is a prospect that I have to admit, I haven’t tracked as closely as I should.  Erie sucked hard last year and Brown being drafted in the 6th round didn’t really inspire me into wanting to put a lot of effort into keeping up with the Otters.  My loss, apparently.

Brown has lit up the league in his draft+1 season and last week was no exception.  In last week’s games, Erie scored a total of 5 goals and Brown picked up 4 of those 5.  I’ve had a lot of people asking me whether Brown has been making a living off of exceptional underager Connor McDavid.  Truthfully, I’m ill-equipped to answer that one right now.  I’ll be watching him at least once this week and maybe twice and I’ll keep this in the front of my mind while I do.   Safe to say that Brown has made me take notice — mea culpa.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably Thursday and if you haven’t made plans to watch the Subway Super Series tonight, I’d urge you to clear some space on your schedule and the couch.  Leafs prospects Josh Leivo, Stuart Percy, Matt Finn and 2013 draft eligible Sean Monahan will be playing for team OHL so if you call yourself a Leafs fan then you call that game a must-watch.  You can catch the game on Sportsnet at 7:00 EST.

Had some great conversations during the Friday Night Hockey game between Oshawa and Guelph, and hope you’ll join me on Twitter for more of the same.

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Brought to you by Blue Chip Prospects

With Sportsnet televising Tyler Biggs’ Friday night showdown with Matt Finn (also: Garret Sparks will likely man the pipes for Guelph), I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to share some things that I’ve noticed about the two Leafs prospects in the early stages of the year.  Think of these points as some things to watch for or consider while taking in the game — I’d love to hear where you agree, disagree, or if you’d just like to talk things out.

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Tyler Biggs

Last night in Leafs Prospects (Friday, October 5):

Tyler Biggs put together a two point Friday night as his high flying Oshawa Generals downed the Kingston Frotenacs 6-4. The Generals were trailing before Biggs assisted on a goal and dropped the gloves to help turn the tide. He added an empty netter to polish off the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

The Generals are the scoringest team in the OHL with 30 goals through just six games, ten more than the next best in their Conference. Biggs scored twice and added a helper in a 7-4 romp of the Battalion earlier in the week and should have a good chance to post good numbers playing on a potent Oshawa team in his first season in the O. Biggs now has eight points in six games and is a combined +8.

Friday night in Leafs Prospects:

David Broll – 2 assists

Garet Sparks – Win

Matt Finn – 1 assist

Connor Brown – 2 assists

Ryan Rupert – 2 assists

Stuart Percy – 1 assist

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@416_Musings has been taking in Leafs Prospect Camp and has posted a few notes over at his site, Draft Schmaft.

Morgan Rielly: As advertised. Competes with Tony Cameranesi for best skater award at camp. A multi-directional skater who gives the impression of his skates barely touching the ice surface. His pivots are smooth and effortless and Rielly has great lateral mobility. Rielly showed great hockey sense and vision in where he places himself, how he navigates through bodies, and how he chooses to attack the offensive zone. As Jim Hughes stated, his passes are hard and quick and in my opinion – at the pro-level. Rielly also sought out and found open lanes before shooting…enough about offence…what surprised me most was how well he played defence. His anticipation of plays created turnovers and he advanced the puck forward. In his own zone, Rielly showed patience as his slick turns kept defenders at bay. Rielly’s speed allows him to regain position in his own zone to handle one-on-one plays. After Stuart Percy, Rielly may have played the best defence today.

Tyler Biggs: The greatest improvement in Biggs’ play could be attributed to the skating work he has put in over the past month. Biggs seems to have more explosiveness and his diagonal cuts were sharp. Biggs found open ice for himself on several occasions. His wrist shot did not hit the net but had some heat to it. Played a physical game which should come as no surprise to anyone.