It’s true; you can’t teach big but there’s nothing stopping you from going out and getting it.
Two of the Leafs newer bigs, Korbinian Holzer and Tyler Biggs are summering in Toronto, scrimmaging and working with Leafs skating coach Barb Underhill.
A sidenote here: watching Barb Underhill rocket around the ice wearing hockey skates is to observe a master at work. Her students – Holzer and several prospects are among those working with her -say they are gobsmacked by the power and ease of her skating.
Holzer, you might remember is the happy owner of a new one-year, one-way contract. He and Biggs, selected in the late first round in the 2011 draft, have little in common but size. Both come in around six-foot-three, between 210 and 220 pounds.
A fourth-round draft choice in 2006, the 24-year-old Holzer is five years older than Biggs, the Leafs first pick, 22nd overall, in the 2011 draft. Holzer has played 154 pro games, all but two of them with the Marlies.
The one-way deal, teamed with the trade of Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for James van Riemsdyk amounts to the best argument yet that Holzer will patrol the Leafs blue line whenever the a new season takes wing.
“The contract is nice but nothing really changes for me,” Holzer said. “It doesn’t guarantee a spot or anything like that. I still have to work hard but I’m happy that I got the trust of management. I want to prove them right.”
Holzer teamed with Mark Fraser to anchor the Marlies blueline as the club advanced to the Calder Cup final. Fraser has also been re-signed to a one-year deal but the two-way contract underscores Fraser’s situation: barring injuries, he will continue his tutelage in the Dallas Eakins finishing school.
Biggs, meanwhile, seems destined to play with the Oshawa Generals after leaving the University of Miami (Ohio) this spring following a nine-goal freshman season.
Biggs is a dual citizen. His father Don was born in Mississauga. Dad was a gifted five-foot-eight goalscorer who played 18 pro seasons but only a dozen NHL games. Don Biggs played two seasons in junior with the Generals.
Half a foot taller than his father, Tyler found carving out a role as an NCAA power forward a challenge. He was tagged with targeting the head penalties when hitting smaller players and comparably-sized opponents were often tough guys.
“If you see a physical player in the NCAA they’re going to be a guy who has a different role than a guy who is a physical player at the pro level,” he said. “The typical pro power forward can hit and create space and also score and skate and do all the other things. To me, the big hitters at the NCAA level were guys that aren’t going to be on the power play.”
The chance to work the tougher OHL precincts thrills Biggs who won’t come near eclipsing his Dad’s 166 points.
“My Dad loved it,” he said. “There is a lot of tradition there. The fans are great. You can’t go wrong with the situation there.”