Hulking Bigos becoming more than just a hitman

By Richard Murray

Kyle Bigos - Merrimack College

Photo: Merrimack defenseman and Edmonton Oilers prospect Kyle Bigos has been a feared physical defender through much of his college career, but is now trying to become a more well-rounded player (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

After four seasons of playing college hockey for the Merrimack Warriors, Kyle Bigos has transformed into one of the most intimidating players in Hockey East.

The 6'5” senior defenseman has become a defensive catalyst to the Merrimack program because of his ability to throw his body around.

“I don’t know if I have seen a physical shoulder-to-shoulder check that Kyle hasn’t won,” Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy said.  “He just demolishes people, and I have run out of ink to [mark] down the amount of players he has left laying on the ice. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to go into the corner and get a puck from him.”

Bigos’ style of play sometimes changes the way opposing forwards will take the puck into the zone. Often teams will try to take the puck to his partner’s side because they are trying to avoid the big, hard-hitting Bigos.

“I notice guys go to the other side once and a while [to try and avoid Kyle],” Dennehy said. “He is just Paul Bunyan big.”

The Edmonton Oilers prospect plays a very hard-nosed game, and he is not afraid to make the big hit. But, going out of his way simply to make a big hit is something that Bigos is improving on. Earlier in his career he would often get caught out of position because he was looking to make something out of nothing.

“It is very important I stay in position, and that I don’t go out of my way for a big hit,” Bigos said.  “It was something I didn’t really pay much attention too earlier in my career, but the coaches have been really patient with me on that. I make sure I stay inside the dots a lot more now. I know I can’t go running off for the big hit, and that I just need to relax out there.”

Bigos’ physical presence on the ice helps his team quite often because it sets the tone of the game. The edge he plays with can often get under the skin of opposing teams because opposing players don’t want to get hit by Bigos. Dennehy also mentioned that his club often takes advantage of how Bigos plays, especially at home.

“You could say [I play with an edge], and it is something I like to do because it helps the team,” Bigos said about his physical presence. 

“It kind of gets us energized, and I know [our] opponents get really agitated. Other teams don’t like [when I play physical].  When I’m physical, it puts them off their game, which is part of my game.”

Bigos may be one of the more intimidating players in the defensive zone, but his offensive zone play is also starting to come along. He has been seeing regular time on the Merrimack power-play because of his booming shot. Last season, Bigos had a career high 17-point season.

“I am absolutely [trying to work on my two-way game],” Bigos said. “I am getting a lot more power-play time, but I have to remember defense first because it is my bread and butter. Being up top, moving the puck around, and getting a lot of shots on the power-play is something I enjoy.

Participating in the Oilers summer prospect camps have given Bigos a chance to match up against some of the top prospects in all of hockey. He has been able to go head-to-head at camps with the likes of Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

“The experiences attending camp have been amazing, and it is a really tight-knit organization, it’s kind of like a family,” Bigos said of Oilers camps.

“The Oilers have really helped me develop, and they are really interested in their prospects. They have given me a lot of tools and capabilities by working on my footwork, conditioning, and the mental side of my game.”

There are a few players at the NHL level that play a similar, bone-crunching style of hockey to Bigos, but one of the players he has modeled his game after is Boston Bruins defenseman, Adam McQuaid.

“I try to model myself a little bit around McQuaid’s game because he plays a very simple, hard-hitting defensive style,” Bigos said.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Bigos at the collegiate level, but he has shown a lot of improvement to his game.

“In terms of his progression, I would say Kyle has done a better job of staying out of the penalty box for starters,” Dennehy said. “Kyle has learned the difference between what a good and bad penalty is. His big shot only counts if he can get it off, but he has been getting a lot of shots on goal for us.”

With his continued progression, Bigos could make a splash at the pro-level once he graduates in the spring.

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