Likely one of, if not the most polarizing players eligible in the quickly approaching 2016 NHL Draft is Sean Day, a defenseman currently plying his trade with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League.
Granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada prior to the 2013-14 OHL season, Day joined Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad as the only players to be granted the status, which allows chosen players the opportunity to enter the League one season early, at the age of 15.
To date, many would argue that Day has come nowhere close to living up to the expectations demanded of an ‘exceptional player’, in fact, in some cases, those in the scouting community have Day ranked extremely low for the coming draft, and in some cases – not at all.
However, in his draft year of 2015-16, despite failing to quiet his critics, something which may never be possible, Day’s game has steadily progressed to the point at which he is consistently one of the most dominant players on the ice.
Where Day gets the short end of the stick is in how quietly he goes about his game. Perhaps it is because it comes so easily to him.
Defying the Rankings
As previously mentioned, various hockey scouts and services have been incredibly rough on Day, likely over-exaggerating their findings based on the simple fact that he was granted exceptional status.
Lets take a quick look at where Day ranks in an assortment of the most recent rankings ahead of the 2016 Draft.
- NHL Central Scouting (43rd)
- TSN’s Bob McKenzie (46th)
- TSN’s Craig Button (NR)
- Hockey Prospect (NR)
- Future Considerations (NR)
- ISS Hockey (NR)
- Damien Cox (NR)
- McKeen’s Hockey (NR)
As expected, Day has been given an overly rough ride in draft rankings as the season has progressed, yet I would argue this is strictly due to the tendency of scouts to immediately compare him to the exceptional players which have come before him.
Further, a number of these lists are limited to a top-30 ranking only, meaning that unless Day is considered a potential first round pick, he is unlisted, which is where the majority of the not ranked values come into play.
However, what is not shown on the rankings provided above is just how much Day’s game has in fact progressed over his third season with the Steelheads. Although his offensive totals have dropped slightly, it is his impeccable defensive game which will be turning heads when he reaches the NHL level.
Day is the Real Deal
He doesn’t play the most flashy and tantalizing game, which perhaps is why scouts have shied away, yet at the end of the day, Day is undoubtedly one of the most competent, composed and concrete defenders eligible for the 2016 Draft.
Having watched Day play nearly ten times throughout the regular season, and now in the OHL playoffs, I feel as though I can generate a comprehensive and accurate understanding of his game.
At 6’2″, 220 pounds, Day is a tank on the ice, although he doesn’t appear so to the naked eye. However, it’s highly entertaining watching an opposing forward attempt to finish his check only to bounce off or be sent flying by Day, who is remarkably strong in his skates.
It is the same skates which provide the meat and potatoes of Day’s game, which is his great skating ability. He has the ability to accelerate to top speed in three to four strides, while the skilled use of his edges provides Day fantastic agility and the ability to juke and manipulate opposing players.
In the offensive zone, Day utilizes a quick release and hard shot to simply get the puck to the net, whether it comes through a screen or in shooting for a rebound. In doing so, Day indirectly helps to generate offense for his team, a major reason why he doesn’t light up the score-sheet on a consistent basis.
What comes across as somewhat hysterical is the fact that of all the skills Day possesses listed above, his most valuable attribute is not listed.
The one major area which Day has worked on throughout his time in the OHL is his defense, and it has definitely paid off.
In his own zone, Day is seemingly impassable. Combining his elite skating abilities and strength allows Day to match attacking players’ speed, while using his size to force players to the outside. In most cases, a quick, accurate stick knocks the puck off of opponents sticks before they have the opportunity to generate offensive opportunities.
Further, when it comes to board play, Day once again utilizes his power to pin opponents to the boards with ease, before once again using his stick to either knock the puck away, or in numerous cases, strip players of the puck before either making a crisp outlet pass or skating the puck out of his zone.
Personal Draft Projection
Come the Draft in June, it would be hard to see Day not taken in the first round, yet that is likely what will happen.
When watching Mississauga play, fellow draft eligible teammates Michael McLeod and Alex Nylander are both highly skilled and are likely to be selected within the top-10.
So, when it comes to Day, there is no doubt in my mind that he is equally talented as a defenseman, and as such should be a definite first round selection. He is simply too skilled and dominant to fall out of the top-30, yet the expectations associated with being an exceptional status player will likely inhibit an early selection.
As a result, Day will surely be a steal for the NHL team which decides to take an apparent “risk” in drafting him. All that remains to be seen is which team will come to their senses first and select the elite defensive talent.
If you want to check out some of Day’s highlights, see the video below.
(Don’t ask me about the music)
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.