Percy staying humble

Maple Leafs first-round pick Stuart Percy will be suiting up for the OHL's Mississauga St....

Maple Leafs first-round pick Stuart Percy will be suiting up for the OHL's Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors this season. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:37 PM ET

OSHAWA - Stuart Percy has had a few months to get accustomed to seeing the words “Maple Leafs first-round pick” followed immediately by his name in print.

But the 18-year-old defenceman said on Tuesday it hasn’t really sunk in.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Percy said. “But I don’t think it has changed (me) that much. I just expect more of myself. My dad (Steve) said to me that even though I have been drafted, I have to keep working like I’m a rookie in the OHL.”

Percy got a small taste of what it would be like to wear a Leafs sweater at the rookie camp tournament, but he got knocked in the head early in the Leafs’ second game and didn’t play again. A native of Oakville, Percy, who was selected 25th overall by the Leafs in the NHL entry draft in June, three picks after Toronto took winger Tyler Biggs, is hoping to return to the ice this weekend when the main camp opens.

“We don’t think it is going to be anything serious,” Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins, in charge of the team at the tournament, said. “He has not been dizzy (or shown other concussion symptoms), but any time a guy gets hit on the head you have to be cautious.”

A native of Oakville, Percy soon will head back to the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, where he will be one of the leaders on a team that lost in the OHL final in seven games against the Owen Sound Attack last spring. The Leafs don’t expect Percy to have the kind of drop in performance that many returning juniors experience after their initial professional foray.

“Many do fall off, and they get into a funk for a month or two where the coaches have to give them a kick to get them going again,” Leafs director of amateur scouting Dave Morrison said. “In Stuart’s case, I don’t anticipate him being one of those guys.

“I see him going back and taking the experiences he got here and making himself a better player. His intelligence has really shown through. He thinks when he speaks and he thinks when he plays the game.”

Percy already has had some valuable lessons that many players don’t endure at once, let alone in their hockey careers as a whole. The Majors were expected to go to wire-to-wire last season as one of the top teams in the Canadian Hockey League, but they fell on home ice in the Memorial Cup final against the Saint John Sea Dogs, two weeks after the Attack beat the Majors in overtime in Game 7 at the Hershey Centre.

Years from now, Percy is unlikely to remember that he was the third star in the Cup final versus the Sea Dogs, but the pain that came with losing two big games in the span of 14 days will stick.

“It’s something that you don’t want to go through the first time, and you never want to go through it twice,” the 6-foot-1, 186-pound Percy said. “It’s just awful. It gives you that much more determination and makes you more fearful of losing.”

Percy is ready to look ahead, but not too far. If he develops as the Leafs hope he will, one day he will be taking a regular shift at the Air Canada Centre. There are other things to concern himself with first, however.

Morrison said Percy is “subtlely” a good player, but Percy, who had four goals and 30 assists in 64 games last season and was plus-50, wants to be in the spotlight a little more often.

“I want to try to add to my offensive skills,” Percy said. “I think I have good offensive skills, but I have not been able to show them. I want to keep it solid defensively, because that’s my main strength.”


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