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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.

Tyler Biggs seems to elicit the most extreme reactions of any Leafs prospect since Nazem Kadri with some fans already labelling Biggs a bust and others clinging to the belief that he could one day skate on a scoring line.

16 games into the season, my impression of Biggs is that the book on him is more or less accurate.  He’s a very good forechecker and wins a lot of battles along the boards.  Biggs hits hard and with purpose but he’s a clean hitter and doesn’t put himself out of position to make a big hit.  This year, Biggs has predominantly skated against the best players on the opposing team which means he’ll likely see a fair bit of Scott Kosmachuk on Friday night.  As far as his defensive game goes, I can’t find much to complain about.  Wingers don’t have the same extent of defensive zone responsibility as centers do but Biggs does come down to the half boards when the situation calls for it and rarely allows his defenseman to sneak past him.

With regard to the holes in Biggs’ game, he is almost always the first member of his line to change and appears to fatigue easily.  Now this may be a product of an OHL schedule that is considerably busier than what he would have been used to in the NCAA but it’s something to keep an eye on for Friday.  He’s also prone to firing the puck in front of the net blindly after gaining control of the puck in the corner, often with nobody there.  When playing in front of the net, Biggs doesn’t set up at the top of the crease but rather tends to play about six feet higher than that — this may be a coaching strategy as nobody on Oshawa really seems to get to the front of the net in what I would consider the right way.  This is probably the area of Biggs’ game that I see as the most correctable and also the most likely to lead to point production in the future.

Matt Finn has largely been the forgotten man among Leafs blueline prospects in the wake of Morgan Rielly’s emergence as one of the premier prospects among defensemen but make no mistake, we should be expecting big things from Finn.

With 13 points in 14 games, Finn sits 7th in scoring among OHL defensemen.  He’s got a solid pass when exiting the zone and makes good decisions with the puck in all situations.  His +8 leads all Guelph defensemen and if the OHL had Corsi, I would guess Finn’s would be tops among that crew as well.

On the powerplay, Finn has a strong shot but may have a slight case of the Phaneufs.  He can be a little shot-happy at times and, likely because he shoots for the corners, can be prone to missing the net.  He changes the shot angle on the PP well and this will likely lead to some strong PPG numbers by the end of the season.  In his own zone, Finn is a good positional defender, somewhat in the mould of Stuart Percy and, while not overly physical, will rub a guy out if the situation calls for it.

In a perfect world, I’d like to see Finn become a bit of a stronger skater.  He makes such strong decisions that if he could just get a little bit quicker he might be able to hit some of the holes while gaining the zone better than he’s been able to thus far.  It isn’t as though he’s a poor skater per se but if he’s going to take another step forward, this is probably the area where he would see the most significant returns.

I hope you guys will join me in watching the game Friday night on Sportsnet.  If you want to talk about the game or about Leafs prospects in general, you can look me up on twitter here.

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