Top 25 Under 25 - #7 Stuart Percy

The local boy moves down the road from Mississauga to Toronto, and takes another move up our countdown.

In his young career, Stuart Percy has seen and done quite a bit. From being a leader on an elite minor midget team, to be being drafted in the 1st round of the OHL Priority Selection, to participating in a Memorial Cup, to being named captain of his OHL club, to being a 1st round pick in the NHL Entry Draft, to missing a significant stretch of time with concussion issues, to playing a cameo role in the Toronto Marlies run to the Calder Cup Finals.

All he's missing to date is a World Junior Championship appearance and he'd be well on his way to a Forrest Gump-esque run through hockey.

The next chapter in Percy's here, there and everywhere story will take place this season, when he makes the full-time transition from junior to pro hockey with the Toronto Marlies.

Percy has a lot of tools available at his disposal, and is an extremely malleable defenceman, capable of playing in any number of situations. Given the large influx of young defenceman into the Marlies this season, it means Percy should be expected to grow into a prominent role as this season moves on.

Percy has the pedigree and performance to suggest a future as a top-4 defenceman in the NHL. His potential and his current achievement push him up our list three spots to #7, but as we'll look at later, just barely.

After a concussion derailed his 2011-12 season (which like Matt Finn, had seen his offence take a major step forward before the injury), Percy was required to take on more defensively minded assignments as a veteran presence on the Steelheads. Still recovering from emptying the prospect pool for the 2011 Memorial Cup, the Steelheads lacked depth in many key positions, and Percy was a rock on the point for goal-starved Mississauga, who did everything they could to give away a playoff spot down the stretch.

Unlike many prospects on this list, Percy is one we've had access to viewing quite frequently, and of anyone playing below the AHL, he's definitely the guy I've personally seen the most of. For the Steelheads, he was their Dion Phaneuf; relied on almost exclusively to play against other teams' top lines (he must have been playing close to 28 minutes or more some nights), sacrificing some of his offensive totals in the process (and like I mentioned, Mississauga's offence abandoned them in the second half last season).

In the late stages of a game PPP and I attended, Percy did not come off the ice for the final four minutes with the team down and scrambling for an equalizer.

The Marlies possess a number of defenceman (including Korbinian Holzer, Jesse Blacker, Petter Granberg, and potentially Andrew MacWilliam) whose game relies on being the defensive rocks. That should, especially given his rookie status, free up Percy to take more of an offensive role with the Marlies. However, Percy's simple, effective defensive game should hold him in good stead, and make transitioning to the pro game a lot easier.

Rather than relying on big bodychecks and punishing forwards with size and strength, Percy plays a thinking man's defensive game; using his strong skating and positioning to anticipate plays, cut off angles and pressure forwards into mistakes. Fans of Randy Carlyle's "Crash and bang" philosophy will no doubt completely misunderstand his quiet effectiveness.

clrkaitken birky SteveBurtch Chemmy SkinnyFish BowerPower JP Nikota PPP 67Sound Rank
6 9 13 8 13 7 7 13 8 7

EDITION 2 - 10/41
EDITION 1 - 11/45

I mentioned yesterday that Percy, ranked number 7, and Matt Finn, ranked 8, tie at 195 points, and that the result was the single-closest we've ever had in the history of compiling this list.

If you remember, we settle tiebreaks first by comparing the total number of votes in the Top 25, then by comparing the single highest vote issued. In this case, since we're talking about a tie for 7th place, all 9 voters ranked both players in the Top 25. Both players single highest vote was 6th (my vote for Percy, SkinnyFish's for Finn). The next highest vote for both players was 7th (Bower Power for Percy, birky for Finn). JP Nikota would eventually decide the tiebreak, as it turned out he cast the 3rd highest vote for each of the prospects; 7th for Percy, 8th for Finn. And so after a 4th round of tiebreaks, Percy edges Finn for 7th spot.

Percy put up very good offensive numbers playing for Mississauga in the OHL, and will be expected to begin rounding out his defensive game this coming season with the Marlies. This is another D-man in the Leafs' system with top-4 potential.
JP Nikota
The group was split this time around, with six voters giving him a placing in the Top 10 (I moved him up six and JP moved him up seven), while three dissenters all oddly enough ranked him 13th (PPP keeping him steady and SkinnyFish dropping him four).
His phyiscal tools need development, but he'll likely be an NHLer eventually. Only have him ranked behind Blacker (Steve's #12 ranking) due to the time required for him to get to the NHL - likely a couple of years out.
Steve Burtch
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