“Never fear the space between your dreams and reality.” Unknown Author
That inspirational quote perfectly summarizes Zach Biggar’s journey in life and the game of hockey. Biggar is as focused as ever to accomplish his dream to play in the National Hockey League. It’s been a long road for the 18-year-old product of Portage, Prince Edward Island, but his lifelong dream to play at hockey’s highest level is quickly becoming a reality.
From the Father to the Son
The passion and love for the game of hockey has been passed down for generations in the Biggar family.
Like so many Islanders before him, Zach Biggar learned the game in the harsh elements of a PEI winter. From frozen feet and hands, to red numb windchilled cheeks, Biggar fell in love with the game almost instantly.
“I remember skating for the first time when I was around five-years-old,” Biggar said proudly. “My late grandfather told my dad to make me a little sheet of ice.”
“My grandfather supplied all of the equipment for me.”
“It’s one of my few memories I have of him, so it’s one that is real close to my heart.”
Climbing the Ladder
“I like to say, that possibly without him introducing me to the sport back then, I may not be where I am right now in the game of hockey,” stressed Biggar.
In a year with so much uncertainty and unknown, Biggar like every other NHL draft eligible prospect persevered. In a year that some players say is the most stressful of their lives, Zach Biggar embraced the journey, embraced the grind never taking anything for granted, just like he did lacing them up all those times on the backyard rink.
Zach Biggar is all heart. He approaches life with the same passion and love that he has for the game of hockey. You can tell a lot about a player and person, by their energy, character and will to compete. Those three attributes have always played a massive role in Zach Biggar’s path in the game. Biggar has continued to improve, develop and refine his style of play and his identity throughout his journey in the game.
In the most important year of his hockey playing life, the skilled smooth skating transitional defenceman channeled all of the pressure and adversity he faced into excitement for the game staying grounded and consistent every step of the way.
“It wasn’t too bad actually,” Biggar said of the pressure and attention.
“As a player eligible for the draft, you just try and focus on playing your game and helping your team win.”
“I’m the kind of guy that puts a lot of high expectations on myself.”
“Obviously, it was a very unusual season, but I just tried to focus on consistency more than anything.”
“This season was difficult for sure, but I’m not the guy to be satisfied, I always want to improve and get better.”
“Throughout the year, I really tried to improve on my strength and quickness as it’s a big jump coming to major junior and those are some keys you need to possess as an effective player.”
“You don’t want to get out of your rhythm and routines for both games, practices and off ice training, so more than anything I tried to remain consistent.”
“I think it’s all about having a routine and being consistent no matter what the circumstances because at this level there is really no excuses.”
“I will say it was a lot harder than some may think, but it’s the sacrifices that all young players have to make if we want to play at the next level.”
At one point all of the New Brunswick based QMJHL teams had over a hundred days off from playing games. In the Red Phase of the provinces COVID-19 pandemic response, some teams couldn’t even practice.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan rookie defender turned in a strong showing recording 11 assists in 33 games. In nine post season appearances, he had three assists. One has to look past the stat sheet to fully appreciate Biggar’s value and importance to the organization.
Biggar isn’t the flashiest player on the ice, but don’t worry, NHL scouts certainly took notice. The intelligent puck mover and high character defender did just about anything to defend and win hockey games for the Titan this season. He seldomly lost puck battles and was extremely versatile given his ability to play both sides of the ice. He possesses a very active stick defensively and an accurate first pass coming out of his own zone. One of his strongest attributes is definitely his offensive instincts and ability to jump into the play when the opportunity presents itself.
Growth and Development
Some critics were expecting more from the Islander early on this season, after his amazing junior debut with the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Hockey League as a 16-year-old a season ago.
Zach Biggar always wanted to play at the highest level possible. He looked forward to the challenge of playing against the best of the best every time out. So when the Titan selected him in the 2nd round 27th overall in the 2019 QMJHL entry draft, he thought the transition to the Q would be difficult, but well within the realm of possibility.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan brain trust had different plans for Biggar and his development.
“The decision to send Zach back to Summerside was not a difficult one at all,” said Titan Assistant General Manager Roger Shannon.
“We already had two sixteen-year-old players in Cole (Huckins) and Riley (Kidney), knowing how important it is to play to develop, and knowing he was going to Jr A, we knew he would truly benefit,” Shannon said.
“Jr A is an excellent place for sixteen-year-old players to develop as long as they play, and we knew Billy would play him and develop him well,” Shannon said.
“I was devastated and in tears after being sent down at camp,” Biggar said.
“Little did I know at the time getting sent down, was going to be the best thing that could happen for me,” Biggar added.
“Zach cares deeply for others and is always happy for his teammates when they have success,” said Caps Head Coach Billy McGuigan.
“Zach took on a big role here in Summerside. He had big big shoes to fill as he came in the season following Jordan Spence and let me tell you those were big shoes to fill,” said McGuigan smiling.
“He took advantage of every opportunity, and he quarterbacked the best pp in the MHL running at over thirty percent for the year.”
“Zach’s development and belief in himself continued to grow as that season progressed. He is a kid that cares and he plays on both sides of the puck, when he is on the ice he can add an extra layer of offensive from the back end with a high IQ and smarts,” McGuigan said.
“My time with the Caps and Billy in the MHL is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
“Playing on a loaded Caps squad with a room full of Islanders was something I loved.”
“I met a lot of guys in Summerside that I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”
“Billy was great for my development. He gave me every opportunity a 16-year-old kid could ask for,” admitted Biggar.
“Playing on the power play with four 20-year-olds who were all very skilled and talented, to playing crucial minutes in big games was a great experience.”
“Summerside is one of the best organizations you could play for.”
“Billy is a great coach who is filled with knowledge I really enjoyed playing for him.”
In 47 games with the high-octane championship caliber Caps, he scored seven goals and added 35 assists before COVID-19 sadly ended their season. Biggar tried to take a similar route to that of Moncton Wildcat and Val d’Or Foreurs, standout, LA Kings prospect Jordan Spence.
The unconventional path or path less travelled usually is the most rewarding. Zach Biggar was more than ready to make the jump to the QMJHL this season, but more importantly he was mentally prepared to become an impact player right way.
“After seeing the year Zach had with us in Bathurst, it was a good decision for all involved,” stressed Shannon.
Obviously, Biggar’s offensive output didn’t translate due in large part to his role with the Titan in the early stages of the season.
The highly versatile rearguard played a more shutdown role before the Q’s Trade Period, but things seem to change when the Titan acquired 19-year-old defensive specialist Jaxon Bellamy from the Sherbrooke Phoenix. Biggar started to explore the offensive zone with more regularity and started to jump in on the rush.
The rookie defender definitely found his footing and comfort zone at the QMJHL level during the second half of the season.
“It’s been great so far in Bathurst,” stressed Biggar.
“The organization is top notch, and we really have a special group of guys in our locker room.”
Biggar is quick to credit Titan Assistant Coach Greg Leland for his transition and early success in the QMJHL.
“Greg has been awesome for me.”
“He has given me plenty of opportunities on the back end, which I am very grateful for.”
“All of the staff have been awesome, we all want to win and get better, we have great coaches and front office management that push us to be the best we can possibly be, on and off the ice.”
“We all have the same goals as a team and as individuals and the future is really looking bright in Bathurst. It will be a fun next few years for sure,” admitted Biggar who is currently ranked 164th amongst North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting Final List for 2021.
There’s no question Zachary Biggar is one of the most underrated defenders in the entire QMJHL and that he is definitely trending in the right direction heading into the draft in July.
A plethora of Biggar’s Titan teammates are experiencing NHL Draft pressure.
“All of the draft eligible guys on our team have been close and have talked about the draft a few times, but it’s more of trying not to make it a distraction,” confessed Biggar.
“As far as the pro level is concerned, I feel I’m a two-way defencemen.
“I love to jump into the play offensively and make plays, I’d love to translate that to the professional ranks someday,” explained Biggar.
“I will say Jaxon Bellamy has been a great mentor for me during the second half of the season, and the two of us have become pretty close.”
“I’ve known Zach for a few years before going to Bathurst through my agent,” said Jaxon Bellamy.
“Zach is a great kid and a great person.”
“He’s one of my good buddies on the team, his work ethic and dedication to the game and wanting to improve in every area of his game is one of the reasons why we both get along so well.”
“We are both two of the last ones on the ice every practice, just working on the little things.”
“He’s got great character from coming into his first year in the league and he handled the season very well.”
“You can see how calm he is out there and how handles every situation that comes his way, he uses all those situations and experiences as a way to get better,” Bellamy said.
Support and Inspiration
From his earliest recollection of the outdoor rink to playing provincial hockey around the Maritimes, to the Canadian Hockey League, Zach Biggar was never short on support or inspiration. Those two elements continue to shape his journey in life and the game.
“I grew up a Penguins fan, so as a defenceman, I loved watching Kris Letang play and use his creativity in the O zone and his smarts in the D zone,” Biggar said.
“Obviously, seeing a fellow Islander like Noah Dobson come through Bathurst and Rouyn in junior and win two Memorial Cups, to now playing with the New York Islanders is awesome, he’s another guy I look up to a lot.”
The unwavering support from his family and coaches truly means everything for the mature well-spoken defensive prospect. Zach Biggar will never forget his roots, never forget the sacrifices, big or small that have got him to this point of his career.
“My parents have sacrificed so much for me.”
“They have made countless trips to rinks all across the Maritimes and really gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams regardless of the circumstances.”
“As far as coaches and mentors go, there’s so many to name.”
“I think of names like Kyle Dunn, who coached me in my QMJHL draft year in Midget, Phil Bridges, who helped me year after year when I was younger throughout spring hockey.”
“There’s so many others that I could say as well. They have all had a huge impact on my career.”
“Never fear the space between your dreams and reality.”
Zachary Biggar embodies every aspect of this quote and more. From the outdoor rink in his backyard, to his grandfather’s support, to the incredible climb up the ranks of the game, to perhaps the bright lights of the NHL, Zach Biggar has never lost his sight of his dream. That dream is coming close to reality.
“It would be an absolute dream come true to hear my name called in the NHL draft,” Biggar said.
“It’s kind of a cliche for a Canadian kid to say they want to be an NHL player when they grow up, but to have that opportunity and to become even closer to that dream would be phenomenal.”
“To hear my name called at the draft this summer would be the greatest day of my life.”
“It’s been a dream of mine my entire life so making that a reality would be crazy.”
“I would be thinking of all my family and friends who have supported me throughout it all.”
“I’d love to be with them if that special moment happens.”