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Kyle Bigos - #20 In The Top 25 Under 25

His upcoming college degree is proof-positive that this prospect can read, but can he swing a sack of door knobs? We'll find out soon enough.

He's hard to fit into a single camera frame...
He's hard to fit into a single camera frame...
Merrimack Athletics

One of the oldest adages in sports (and bird's nest stealing) is that you can't teach size. For the last 3 and a half years, the Oilers have counted among their prospects one of the largest humans on the planet capable of forward locomotion on skates -- Kyle Bigos, hulking defenceman for Merrimack College. When rating all 42 eligible prospects for this Top 25 list, my primary heuristic for deciding between them (after about #8) was what number of NHL games they had any probability of playing. I rated Bigos #16 (and highest out of anyone in our panel) because I feel his shot at playing NHL games is right about 16th out of the 42 eligible players -- it's really that simple. His overall ranking for this edition of The Top 25 Under 25 is #20.

Rank Player DOB Drafted Year Alan
JW Michael Ryan
20 Kyle Bigos 1989-05-12 99 2009
26 19 26 22 18 27 16 21 20

Previous Rank: 24

I've always thought Kyle Bigos has one of those supremely apt names that seems too poetic to be true. It would be akin to Richard Pryor being called Richard Funnyos, or Jim Belushi being called Jim Notfunnyos. Yes, he's a large human being. Bruce McCurdy reported during the most recent summer prospect development camp that his vital stats were listed at 6'5" and 251 lbs. That sounds like a lot of human matter, but just how large is that? Here's a list of all current NHLers who are over both 6'4" in height and 245 lbs in weight:

  1. Zdeno Chara - 6'9" 255
  2. John Scott - 6'8" 270
  3. Joe Finley - 6'8" 249
  4. Nik Antropov - 6'6" 245
  5. Dustin Byfuglien - 6'5" 265
  6. Yep, that's it.
So does Bigos have the toughness of Antropov or Big Burly John Scott? Well, through 23 games played this year he's racked up 82 penalty minutes. That sounds like a decent amount, until you realize the 2nd place guy on his team has 32 PIMs. I'm not saying that having 156% more PIMs than the 2nd place guy on your team makes you Stone Cold Steve Austin, but it's obvious this guy is not a shrinking violet. He's also 4th in PIMs in the entire NCAA Div 1 (after having led the league last year) and has the highest PIM/game average of any player I can find.

And it turns out that he has some puck skill as well. His 4 Goals - 7 Assists - 11 points in 23 games gives him the 3rd best points per game among defencemen on his team, but he is within spitting distance from the leader. Six of Bigos' 11 points were earned on the powerplay, while his 27 shots fired on net on the PP lead the entire team (even though he's missed 7 games). This at least says he's seen as an all-around option for "toughness", decent offensive capability, and of course, physicality (such as this hit).

While #17-ranked Merrimack aren't quite the team they were the last couple of seasons (they were actually ranked #1 in the country for a short while last season for the first time in franchise history), they are still a decent club at 14-10-6, (6 as in ties, not loser points). After Bigos was hurt in Merrimack's very first game this year they proceeded to go 2-3-2 without him in the lineup, meaning they are 12-7-4 with him in the lineup. Small sample size, sure, but his coach specifically mentioned looking forward to Bigos' return.

Here's what Professor Jonathan Willis had to say about Bigos:

There are a lot of things to like about Kyle Bigos, starting with the fact that he's a physical monster and he plays with a mean streak, two attributes that the Oilers love. Off-setting the positives are a host of concerns, though. He's old - the same age as fourth-year pro Alex Plante. For a shutdown defenceman, his college plus/minus is a little concerning too - entering this season, Merrimack was plus-60 with Bigos off the ice and just plus-4 with him on. That's far from a definitive worry, given the flaws with plus/minus, but it is worth noting. He gets the coveted "skates well for a big man" label, which is rarely reassuring - he didn't seem particularly fast in the Oilers' summer development camp, though again that's more to be filed under 'possibly of interest' than 'damning.' The biggest fear, though, might be opportunity: Bigos (if the Oilers choose to sign him) will be entering a development system flush with defenders in general and especially on the right side - he will need to quickly earn playing time while competing against guys like Taylor Fedun and Colten Teubert. It's a tall order.

I can see what Willis is getting at. There are other defencemen of the type "knuckle dragger" in the Oilers' development system, especially specimens like Alex Plante and Colten Teubert. His improvement from #24 to #20 in our rankings is likely more a reflection of other prospects turning to dust than him having any kind of career season.

But there are mitigating circumstances: Plante is already old news and is likely getting jettisoned this summer. Teubert will probably not see any NHL action this year after having played 24 games last year. Teubert is also an inch shorter and a full 50 pounds lighter than Bigos. If there is going to be a roster spot available for a man-bear in the future, Bigos seems to have an advantage here.

By the beginning of next season, Bigos will be 24, his last year of eligibility for this list. That is a very advanced age for someone to be playing their first year of professional hockey. The thing is, we know what we have in Plante and Teubert, but Bigos is still largely an unknown. It also means that if he shows well in the minor leagues, he'll have a chance to have an immediate impact -- this isn't a guy that will need 3 years of tutoring before we know what we have.

In all, we don't really know a hell of a lot about Bigos. I'm sure not many of us have actually seen the man play. He takes penalties, is known for hitting guys, has progressed slowly through college, and isn't terrible at offence. Out of any of the top 25, I'd say he's the least known quantity. But his size alone will likely give him at bats in the majors, probably at Teubert's expense. Huge (not merely big) men are given opportunities to have careers simply by not being awful (see: Cross, Cory). Bigos has that chance, but a lot is dependent on how he shows next year in a professional league.

Which leads to the final piece in the puzzle --> will this kid actually sign in Edmonton? He's in his senior year of college and if he doesn't sign an entry-level contract with the Oilers before August 15th, he can exploit the "Justin Schultz' loophole of the CBA to become a UFA. He's an American kid (from California, no less), which may mean he'd rather look elsewhere. However, in this fantastic interview with The Pipeline Show from last June, he seemed to intimate his intention to sign with the Oilers, if they want him to:

So, Tuesday night I put the question to Bigos: Is becoming an unrestricted free agent in August (2013) on your mind as something you would consider?

"No, not really," Bigos replied, "Next year I really want to focus on training this summer, then the season and after that I don't think I'd really want to go any where else. I haven't really given it much thought. I was drafted by the Oilers, they saw something in me, they really like me, we have a personal and formal relationship that I really like and hopefully I can land here."

Oiler fan, just because Bigos is returning to Merrimack College this fall does not mean that the 4th rounder is looking to leave the organization. For him, it's about further development on and off the ice. He wants to get his degree and he wants to be ready as a hockey player too.

So there is no reason for concern here. Right?

"No, absolutely not," he reiterated, "I love Canada, I love Edmonton and the organization has treated me so well. They have me completely right now and I'm very excited to be a part of it, very honoured and I'm just going to work as hard as I can to make the team."

You heard him Oiler fans -- we had him at 'Entry Level Contract'! Swoon!

And as long as nothing has drastically changed in the meantime, I'd say there's a very good chance Bigos gets signed by the Oilers after the end of the NCAA season. And as long as he's still in the Oilers system, we'll have a MUCH better idea of what the organization has in Bigos by this time next year.