Tyler Biggs leads Maple Leafs NCAA and European prospects

By John-Eric Iannicello
Photo: Goalie Grant Rollheiser recently finished his fourth season as a backup for Boston University. (Photo courtesy of Duncan Williams/Icon SMI)

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a handful of 2011 selections playing in Europe and the NCAA this season. Tyler Biggs, Max Everson, and Eric Knodel all debuted as rookies in the NCAA.

NCAA

Tyler Biggs, RW, Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (CCHA)
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2011

The Leafs first round draft pick from the 2011 draft, Biggs has been plying his trade with the RedHawks this season as a rookie in the NCAA. He's primarily seen time on Miami's second line, and saw more and more power player play time as the season went along. The youngest member of Miami Ohio finished the season sixth in forward scoring with a respectable nine goals and eight assists in 37 games. He also second on the team in penalty minutes with 63. He's played most of the season with Curtis McKenzie (DAL) and Trent Vogelhuber (CLB).

Max Everson, D, Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 203rd overall, 2011

Turning 19-years-old in February, Everson was Harvard's youngest defenseman on the roster this season. He's progressed steadily, but remains a project player for the Maple Leafs. He failed to record his first career NCAA goal, but added four assists in 34 games this season. He's played almost exclusively with junior defenseman Brendan Rempel. His assets include his physical game and defensive position, but will require attention to his footwork and decision making at the higher level. He's expected to grow with a young Harvard defensive core over the next few seasons.

Hockey's Future caught up with Everson in February.

Eric Knodel, D, New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2009

After not seeing any game action as a freshman in 2010-11, Knodel has made up for lost time by hitting his stride this season with the Wildcats. The 6'6 defender finished fourth in defensive scoring for New Hampshire with three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 37 games. He's played much of his season with senior defensmean Damon Kipp in Wildcats top four. Knodel has become a regular on the Wildcats power play this season also. He's a fluid skater for his size, and has added bulk since being selected in 2009. He's known more for his offensive game, and it's an area that is starting to develop as he becomes more experienced as a first year NCAA player.

Andrew MacWilliam, D, North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Drafted 7th round, 188th overall, 2008

 

The third year Fighting Sioux defender scored his first and second career NCAA goals this year, but failed to surpass his point career high in point totals (eight) that he set a year ago. The 22-year-old defenseman continued his rugged style of play this season recording a team high 75 penalty minutes. Due to the injuries on the Fighting Sioux's defense, MacWilliam has also seen increased time on the clubs power play. While he's been given more chances in an offensive role, his bread and butter is his work on the penalty kill. He's been paired with offensive-minded sophomore Nick Mattson (CHI) all season which has proven to be a good complimentary pairing. MacWilliam has continued to work on his foot speed, but it still remains an area of weakness going forward. He projects as a tough, depth defenseman with leadership qualities. He's likely to spend his final year at North Dakota.

Dennis Robertson, D, Brown University Bears (ECAC)
Drafted 6th round, 173rd overall, 2011

One of the Bears standout defenseman last year, Robertson has continued to be arguably Browns best defenseman again this year. While he failed to build on his strong rookie numbers from last season, Robertson still lead the Bears in defensive scoring with two goals and 14 assists through 32 games. Offensively is where Roberston thrives. He's a primary fixture on the Bears specialty teams, and plays the role of quarter back when moving the puck. Robertson has played most of the season with sophomore Matt Wahl on the top defensive unit.

Grant Rollheiser, G, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 158th overall, 2008

A draft pick from the 2008 draft, Rollheiser hasn't been able to steal the Terriers starting position due to the strong play of Kieran Millan (COL). He's only seen action in seven games this season and has a 2.87 goals against average to go with a 0.905 save percentage. Both statistics are career highs for the 22-year-old goaltender. Given the lack of starts, and development of other goaltenders in the system, its unlikely Rollheiser lands an NHL contract with the Maple Leafs.

Europe

Daniel Brodin, LW, Djurgarden (SEL)
Drafted 5th round, 146th overall, 2010

 

Drafted in the fifth round in 2010, Brodin has played most of his SEL career as a role player for Djurgarden. The checking forward averaged 7:27 of ice time per game in 46 games this season – which was lowest among the team. He finished the year with two goals and seven assists and was a minus-seven. He finished in the top three in hits for his squad with 69. The 22-year-old forward is under contract for one more season in Sweden.

Petter Granberg, D, Skellefteå (SEL)
Drafted 4th round, 116th overall, 2010

The 19-year-old defensive defenseman has made solid strides this season as a full-time member of Skellefteå in the SEL. He's averaged only limited minutes this season in a depth role, but that's rather par for the course for teenagers playing in the top Swedish men's league. He's averaged 8:20 of ice time per game this season. He's appeared in 38 games, and has scored once and added three assists while being a minus-one. Like Brodin, Granberg is under contract through the 2012-13 season. His club is currently in the SEL championships against Brynäs, which will start April 10th.

Tom Nilsson, D, Mora (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2011

 

The Maple Leafs fourth round pick in 2011 has developed steadily as a full-time member of Mora. Its Nilsson's first season playing in a men's league as he spent most of his season last year playing in Sweden's top U-20 junior league. The 18-year-old finished third in defensive scoring for Mora with four goals and six assists in 44 games. He also had an impressive plus-10 which was among the team's best. He was also among the teams most penalized players with 45 recorded penalty minutes. Nilsson is considered a key member of Mora for next season and signed a one-year extension with the club in March.