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Ottawa 67′s not sold on taking Sean Day No. 1, which might speak louder than it should

Detroit Compuware defenceman Sean Day turned 15 in January (Paul Kidd photo)

So much for the Sean Day sweepstakes? Or do we just wait a year? When it comes to a player who wants exceptional status and the needs of the team(s) with the first pick(s), the twain are not supposed to meet.

Thanks to Erie Otters centre Connor McDavid and Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad, we know the drill. The Ontario Hockey League delegates the process to Hockey Canada, which oversees all the fact-finding — assessing the player's talent, but also his emotional and physical maturity and his support system — before coming back with a decision. It keeps up appearances, as far as making it seem double-blind and making it look like the OHL isn't rushing anyone into the league. The teams are not asked its opinion, in order to factor out potential bias.

Both Ekblad and McDavid became a lock to go No. overall the second they declared eligible. It's been more ambiguous with Day, the latest predominantly accelerated puck-chaser who wants exceptional status. Word a few weeks ago was that the Ottawa 67's, who pick No. 1, thought that Day for all his gifts, might not be the most driven young athlete to ever come up the pipe. Rumblings are that centre Travis Konecny might be more of a sure thing for a rebuilding team; Ottawa has since confirmed they're still debating between Day, Konency and 6-foot-2 centre Dylan Strome.

Opinions about young players will always vary widely. But there should be no doubt, so perhaps it's a sniff test.

From Ken Campbell:

An exceptional player should show higher potential than everyone in the OHL's incoming cohort. There should be little to worry about regarding whether he can handle it emotionally, which is really the most important part.

The so-called John Tavares rule was established for cases where there was no doubt. With 99 per cent of 14- or 15-year-old players, there is doubt. Keep in mind the 'hothouse' environment of minor hockey can make some young teens look extraordinary skilled for their age. What it does not show is how they will adapt when they are suddenly competing in a league where there isn't as much of a talent gap between them and the average player.

There is the rule of thumb that a team who drafts an exceptional player is guaranteed to have him for at least three seasons even if goes directly to the NHL at age 18. The rub is there's no guarantee of that happening. In 2007, current Florida Panthers prospect John McFarland was reportedly turned down for exceptional status. You know the rest of the story. McFarland became the next Angelo Esposito. He went No. 1 overall in 2008 to the Sudbury Wolves and was invited to try out for Team Canada as a 17-year-old, but overall his OHL career was viewed as a semi-fizzle as he merely became a good prospect.

Imagine he had received it. Judging strictly on what they did in the OHL, would it have been wise to take McFarland over either of that year's Nos. 1 and 2 picks, Ryan O'Reilly and Taylor Hall? Or any among the 3-4-5 selections, Casey Cizikas, Zack Kassian and Matt Duchene? All five are now established in the NHL.

Point being, there have to be checks in the system on rushing a player. It's not about who could make a major junior team at age 15.

That wasn't why the rule was created. That's not a comment directly on Sean Day, just on the spirit of the rule. If it was just about talent, the old rule that a 15-year-old could play for the team in his home territory and then enter the priority selection draft would still exist. Some great NHLers such as Jason Spezza and Kirk Muller came into the league that way, but so did Rico Fata.

Day could learn his fate for next season as soon as Wednesday.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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