Fifteen-year-old Sean Day will get the wave into the Ontario Hockey League, even if he ends up being the No. 3 or 4 overall pick in next month's priority selection draft.
Make no mistake, it would not look great if the OHL has three 15-year-olds in as many years come into a league early and the latest is not taken first overall. That strains the very definition of exceptional ("forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary"). Who is to object, though, if Day meets the rigorous criteria set down by Hockey Canada to determine exceptional status, notwithstanding that there isn't exactly total transparency with the process? Also, notwithstanding that there is a pretty friendly relationship between the national body and the development league that is closest to the Southern Ontario media market?
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) March 21, 2013
In Day's case, he plays in Michigan, the main battleground state in the CHL vs. NCAA recruiting war. As soon as one started hearing the 15-year-old defenceman would play in the USHL next season if turned down by Hockey Canada, it felt like a matter of when... and if once Bob McKenzie is saying Day got it, well ... the oracular TSN insider doesn't get these wrong:
Hearing Sean Day, CDN who plays for Compuware minor midgets, has been granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada and is OHL draft eligible.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 20, 2013
Now, numerous prospects have gone to the USHL for their age-15 season to develop while keeping an eye on coming north at age 16 to play in one of the Canadian Hockey League's three leagues. That probably could have happened with Day, too.
That does open the door to trying to game the system to get to a certain team. Likely NHL first-round pick Adam Erne, who went from the USHL's Indiana Ice to the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts in 2011, kind of spilled the beans recently that he only had designs on playing for Quebec. Two Ontario Hockey League defencemen who spent their age-15 years in the USHL also slid down in the priority selection draft because of the 'NCAA card.' For instance, defenceman Nick Ebert played in the USHL in 2009-10 before eventually joining tghe Windsor Spitfires (by way of the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors, who drafted him originally). In 2011, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders' Anthony DeAngelo was considered first-round timbre but was still on the board when the Sarnia Sting nabbed him 26th overall, in the second round. DeAngelo, as a young 17-year-old, led OHL D-men in assists this season.
Now the question becomes whether the three non-playoff teams holding the top picks — the Ottawa 67's, Erie Otters, even the Peterborough Petes in the No. 3 slot — have the courage of their convictions to pass on a tantalizing talent. The consensus was/is that the top two incoming 16-year-olds are centre Travis Konecny or centre Dylan Strome, in either order. With Day, there's that question about compete level, to use a hockey phrase that isn't in the dictionary.
From Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood):
The consensus among almost every scout is that Sean Day may be the best skater to come around in a long time. An effortless skater with a fluid stride, Day simply appears as though he is floating on ice as he maneuvers his way around the cold clean sheet. Blessed with four-way agility and the ability to cover ice quickly, Day’s greatest strength may also be the cause of one of his weaknesses. His skating emerges so graceful that it often appears he is not trying at times and analyzing effort is a tough attribute to gauge. (The Hockey Writers)
By no means should anything anti-Sean Day be read into this; as someone who was raised on 1980s firewagon hockey, the reincarnation of Paul Coffey and Phil Housley would be welcome.
It's just that when the John Tavares rule was created in 2005, one would have thought an exceptional status player would not happen every season. There can only be so many. It was supposed to be rare, like Brodie Bruce in Mallrats beating Vancouver in NHL 94 while playing with the Hartford Whalers. Having a player come in every season plays into the notion of rushing teenagers that Ken Campbell called attention to in his must-read book Selling The Dream.
Konecny and Strome can be poured into the same moulds that were used during the Taylor Hall vs. Tyler Seguin debate in 2010. The former is nonstop energy and skill and the latter has the vision. Hence Ottawa and Erie's openness to pass on Day, but it was easier to feel that way when it looked hypothetical.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.