In the commercial world of growing almonds, which happens mostly in California, farmers can’t just plant a bunch of almond trees and cross their fingers hoping everything goes well. The first thing they do is graft an almond tree to a peach tree. This process creates a hardier, more durable, more disease resistant version of the almond tree that means it has a greater chance of success to bear fruit. Everything the farmer does after that is really fine-tuning but this step is absolutely necessary for getting the best production possible.
Sitting quietly on the bus, you could think Petter Granberg was reluctant to speak the language. If you have ever taken a trip somewhere they don’t speak English, you’ll know the intimidation factor can lead to a lot of silence, nodding and smiling. You could think that, but you’d be wrong. Granberg’s English is excellent.
“I’m kind of easy going, laid back…in Swedish too.” He shrugs and smiles and it becomes impossible to see him as a tough brick wall that moves the puck with accuracy and pushes forwards around in the defensive zone. He was taught English in school along with other languages. That’s the world-renowned Swedish education system at work. Petter, simply put, enjoys the surroundings without having to be the centerpiece.
Granberg was also grafted to the game of hockey early, age 4, in a small town that grows skiers not skaters. His friends had poles. He had sticks. There is some pressure being the guy who chooses a different path but it also creates a person and in this case a player, who can be more resilient, and durable. Petter, (as in better) is casual about his move to North America and starting to play the NHL style game on smaller rinks with different angles.
“It’s still hockey.” He admits there are some new gaps he learned and a tighter tougher play. But, it is still the game he grew up playing, getting better at in Skelleftea, the game that got him noticed by the Leafs. He credits John Michael Liles, his defensive partner for the first third of the year, with making the transition less intimidating.
“Liles was good to me. He had lots of information and lots of good advice. He helped with little things in the game that make a big difference. I also have some confidence to shoot more, to provide some offense.” Steve Spott admitted earlier this year that they expected about as much offense from Granberg as say Drew MacIntyre, the goaltender, but Granberg has improved his game without sacrificing defense.
“I want to play in the NHL.” Granberg says plainly as if to think otherwise would be as odd as a reindeer not wanting to pull the red sleigh. It might be hard to understand what drives a kid from a small town in what use to be called Lapland (code for really far north, to be clearer, there isn’t an equivalent northern latitude in Ontario) to think of the NHL as a long-term goal. It wasn’t until he was 18 and drafted that he was really told he was good enough to get there. Granberg is aware now how tough that road is.
“I knew how hard this league (AHL) was to come to from guys like Klefbom, (Oscar Klefbom, Oilers prospect) and I knew it would be a lot of work. I’m getting better everyday. I am working on details and making sure I work hard. Those things will help me most.” Winning always helps too and Granberg has racked up some big wins with a World Junior title, World Championship title and a Swedish Elite League title.
Just like those thousands of peach trees that become hearty almond orchards the Leafs have a defensive prospect that is solid, durable and reliable and is starting the bear the results they expect. You would have to be nuts not to see that Granberg has become a peach of a pick.