The apprenticeship that goes with becoming a big league defenceman is a lengthy process.
The rule of thumb according to former Leaf head coach Randy Carlyle is 350 NHL games minimum.
And so that process is very much in its early stages for Toronto Marlie blueliner Stuart Percy.
The Oakville, Ont., native isn't yet 22 but took a major step in his development last fall making the Maple Leafs out of training camp.
His cool and calm defies his age, and his passing ability under pressure is off the charts.
Those traits saw Percy open with the big club last October where he responded with an assist in each of his first three games.
Percy played nine games for the Leafs, all serving as a stepping stone for making the jump on a permanent basis next season.
"It was a great experience being up there and a lot of fun. It was everything you dream about and worked so hard for, and I now realize it's a reachable goal."
Percy's development has been hastened by the opportunity to play in big time games over the past years. He skated for Mississauga-St. Mike's in the 2011 Memorial Cup final, and a year later partnered with Jake Gardiner as an 18-year-old in the AHL playoffs.
"Playoff hockey has always been huge because it's a great way to learn the details that go into playing high stakes games," Percy said. "I guess in my time with the Marlies we've played the eventual champion in each of the last 3 years. It's really helped my game for sure."
Marlies head coach Gord Dineen has played a key role in Percy's development. That's meant providing perspective to a young protege through the highs and lows of playing defence at the pro level.
"Stu's got real high standards and sometimes he expects a lot more from himself than he should," says Dineen. "He's one of those guys that sometimes you've got to temper him and preach patience, and know that it takes time and experience to get through some things."
Once the Toronto Marlies season comes to an end Percy will spend the summer working on his foot speed with skating coach Barb Underhill and enhancing his lower body strength.
It's another step along the path that resulted in his game taking huge strides last September.
"I think the last couple of summers I've been paying attention to details through training and nutrition," says Percy. "I'm getting better at it every off season and hope to keep growing as a player and a person."
And possibly as a full time member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, rewarding the club that made him a first round pick in 2011.