Defensive defenceman are incredibly hard to project.
When your game relies on taking away offence from the other team, and not really giving back much on the other side, that becomes very difficult for a layman to project up to higher levels (Frankly I think even the most seasoned scouts can struggle with it). A formula like NHLe is next to useless. You have to rely on a lot of subjective factors, open to massive amounts of interpretation of which traits matter and which don't, to make a case for a particular player. And even then, most times you have to test your theories on the player live, and risk it blowing up in your face, to prove whether you were correct or not.
Caution should be the watchword with young, defensive-minded defence prospects. The Leafs recent history has displayed no such restraint, and our hope is that Petter Granberg, today's entry (moving up one spot from last season) at #12, doesn't get sucked into the same trap.
|Height:||190 cm / 6'3"||Weight:||95 kg / 209 lbs|
|Youth Team:||Malmbergets AIF||Contract:||14/15|
|Drafted:||2010 round 4 #116 overall by Toronto Maple Leafs|
The Toronto Maple Leafs recent history with defensive defenceman isn't kind. Mike Komisarek was a disaster from that moment he arrived. Mark Fraser's "safe" game was praised when the shooting percentages went his way, and when they didn't he was found out and shipped to Edmonton. Luke Schenn... got us JVR.
The Leafs have pushed a number of prospects to the NHL and then immediately dropped them in over their head on the first pair to disastrous results. Keith Aulie, who Brian Burke once infamously said would be the future centrepiece of the Dion Phaneuf, languished for half a year as Dion's partner, and now finds his NHL career on life-support. Korbinian Holzer had a similar baptism by fire on the Leafs first pairing, and his reward was a contract extension and a permanent roster spot with the Toronto Marlies.
Two young defenceman came to the AHL last season, being praised for their hard-nosed play and defensive prowess, as future NHL defenceman. The rub was that Granberg, a 4th round draft pick in 2010, and Andrew MacWilliam, a 7th round pick in 2008, had never amassed more than 10 points in a single hockey season. Apparently before Brendan Shanahan, no single employee of the Maple Leafs front office was aware of the phrase "once bitten, twice shy", or else they might have taken Aulie and Holzer's failures to launch as a sign to not pump every single defensive defenceman in the pipeline as the next coming of Brad Marsh (ask your dad). Hell, i'd settle for Bob Rouse (again, ask your dad).
Having said all that, back to Granberg. Despite the very reasonable concern about a defenceman progressing through the ranks, the fact is that so far Granberg has progressed through the ranks. Granberg was playing in the SHL before he turned 19. At age 21, he came over to North America and played quite well for the Toronto Marlies, becoming the sort of defender head coach (and now Leaf assistant) Steve Spott could rely on to play tough minutes, as Jeff Veillette notes:
Starting the year out with John-Michael Liles and eventually ending up with Stuart Percy, Granberg was a rock for the Marlies defensive corps last year. He tends to use his size and wingspan to close gaps and limit the opposition's options, but will also be physical when need be. While he isn't immobile, Granberg would be smart to improve his foot speed and agility if he hopes to break into the NHL. The sheer amount of defencemen in the organization right now will likely keep him on the Marlies for most of this season, but it would not be surprising to see him become a second pairing defenceman in the future.
What works in Granberg's favour compared to some of the other defensive players we've mentioned here is that hitting isn't the weapon in Granberg's arsenal, just one of them. Granberg is positionally sound, and doesn't rely on playing the body to break up plays. That's an important distinction, because a guy who needs to make a hit is usually the one that does so well after the play has moved on to a more dangerous area, but Granberg is comfortable to use positioning and reach to break up the play, and save the hits for when the opportunity arises.
The comparable many people are probably going to reach for with Granberg is his countryman, and recently traded, Carl Gunnarsson. And while I can see the logic to that, it's also possibly a reach to expect Granberg to fill the same role Gunnarsson did. It's entirely possible Granberg only becomes a third-pairing defenceman at the next level, but I do believe we're close to finding that out. The Marlies are poised to have a very crowded blueline, and the Maple Leafs currently have an opportunity for someone to make the team out of camp. Granberg could easily be the person that gets that opportunity, but let's just hope they don't immediately pair him with Dion Phaneuf.
|Name||birky||BowerPower||Burtch||Chemmy||clrkaitken||Nikota||PPP||SkinnyFish||67 Sound||FINAL RANK|
The Leafs are talking about him as like he just missed out on being this year's seventh defenceman. Here's hoping they aren't hung up on a one-way player. - BowerPower
I'd like to see more scoring. 7 points at the AHL level makes me wonder if he can control the game at the NHL level. - Chemmy
Last year there was pretty major fluctuation on Granberg's placement, as he landed in four top 10s and missed one Top 25 entirely. This year, the ranking spread isn't as pronounced, with two top 10s and the lowest ranking being Chemmy's 18th. I found it interesting SkinnyFish went from not even ranking him to putting him in his Top 10, and Chemmy (and PPP) dropped him from one of the highest rankings to one of the lowest.