March 10, 2015
TORONTO– Keeping players together for a large amount of time in the AHL is a difficult task. But given the choice, Marlies coach Gord Dineen would prefer to see prospects Petter Granberg and Stuart Percy continuing to develop their game alongside each other.
Dineen has used 13 defencemen this season because of injuries, or call-ups to the Maple Leafs. He’s also rarely stuck to any specific pairings. But anytime the two sophomore blue-liners have been healthy and on the roster he has placed them together.
“I think Petter’s making more heads-up plays, has more poise with puck because of Stu, and I think Stu defensively is more sound with his gaps because of Petter,” said Dineen. “Their play rubs off on each other.”
Last year as rookies, former Marlies coach Steve Spott preferred to use the two together as well in five-on-five situations.
As they worked in collaboration to ease into the AHL, Percy was the one who controlled the breakouts while Granberg worked as his safety net– whether Percy moved the puck with a pass or chose to skate it out of the defensive zone.
“It feels good to play with him. It helps me a lot,” Granberg said about Percy. “He’s a smart player. Just give him the puck and he will find someone. He’s good defensively as well so we try and play both ways.”
“I love playing with Granny, we get along well in the room,” Percy told LeafsTV. “We have our fun.”
Offensive production is one of the last things to expect out of the Swedish Granberg. Against the Adirondack Flames on Friday, however, the 22-year-old picked up his first-career four-point game with four assists. He now has one goal and 12 points in 35 games with the Marlies– a drastic increase compared to the .10 points-per game he produced in 73 contests last season with Toronto.
“They were legit assists, good for him,” said Dineen.
“Don’t cater your game to the AHL. Make NHL passes, play NHL level and see if other guys raise their play. And certainly Petter’s done that.”
Recalls to the Leafs have broken up the duo on more than one occasion this season. And so, too, has health.
Granberg missed time early in the season with a lower-body injury but was able to bounce back. Percy, though, has been in and out of the lineup and missed a large chunk of games in January with a concussion before sitting out more games in February with an undisclosed concern. Dineen made clear it wasn’t concussion related. The Toronto native has been limited to just 28 games with the Marlies and has one goal and six points.
Twice this year when the Leafs needed a defenceman Percy could have been selected, but wasn’t able to because of health– which opened the door for Granberg to fill in.
Granberg suited up in his seventh game this season with the Leafs on Monday against the New York Islanders, but was returned to the Marlies Tuesday.
There is opportunity for the 21-year-old Percy to be summoned with the NHL season winding down as the Leafs own a depleted blue-line with the shutdowns of Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak and the departure of Cody Franson. However, the big club no longer has any right-handed shots, which is leverage for Granberg because Percy is left-handed. And it’s not out of question to see Toronto give other defencemen such as Andrew MacWilliam a look as well.
The Marlies have 18 games remaining and are one point out of a playoff spot so how the organization plans to use Granberg and Percy down the stretch will be a balancing act between showcasing with the Leafs and pushing for a post-season berth in the AHL.
What is certain, is that if the two are healthy and on Dineen’s roster, they will be paired together.
“They complement each other very well.”