The capital city's puck patriarch, Hockey Hall of Fame coach Brian Kilrea, has enthused about 15-year-old defenceman Sean Day. However, multiple reports say the 67's, following the the worst season in club history since their inaugural campaign 45 years ago, are definitely not using their No. 1 overall pick on Day, who skates at warp speed and received early eligibility for the OHL priority selection draft this week. Reports from both the Ottawa Citizen's Don Campbell and London Free Press' Patrick Maloney (who wrote a 10-part series about Konency entitled 'The Prospect') say Ottawa will select Travis Konecny, the centre from Clachan, Ont., in the OHL priority selection draft on April 6.
Pass on Day after he was endorsed by the hometown legend? You can already hear people in 3-4 years saying shoulda listened to Kilrea. But the 67's inner circle, including coach-GM Chris Byrne, head scout Tim Higgins and owner Jeff Hunt, are indicating they've made their choice.
From Campbell, who even reports the 67's could trot out Travis Konecny for media and the fans as early as three days before the draft:
The 67’s have watched Day time and again, and as recently as two weeks ago at the Michigan minor midget state championship tournament. They liked what they saw in Day, even as far back as at a tournament over the Christmas holidays. They realize he is going to be a great junior player.
But it seems they just keep coming back to Elgin Middlesex centre Travis Konecny, who 67’s fans can expect to be in Ottawa as early as April 3 for an introduction as the first overall choice and the player to lead the 67’s back to respectability and a refurbished Lansdowne. (Ottawa Citizen)
“They’re taking Konecny,” an OHL source said of the 67’s.
The selection of Konecny at No. 1 would be historic: Day is just the fourth player to be granted “exceptional” status, allowing him to enter the OHL draft a year early, at age 15. The other three — John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid — went first overall in their respective drafts.
That Day would be bumped from the top spot will surprise many, especially considering that by entering the OHL at 15, he’s able to give his team another season of service before his presumptive jump to professional hockey.
But it also makes clear just how good the 67’s believe Konecny ... will become.
“To be taken ahead of a player granted exceptional status — there isn’t really an adjective to describe it. What do you call it? Super-exceptional?” said one OHL insider who’s not affiliated with either player.(London Free Press)
Again, it's not a comment on Sean Day.
It is not be the first time opinions were split on how to evaluate an offensive defenceman who's fleeter and more skilled than most forwards. Scott Niedermayer was a No. 3 overall pick in the 1991 NHL draft behind two forwards, Eric Lindros and Pat Falloon (really). Paul Coffey went No. 6 in 1980. If the old Ontario Hockey Association (the forerunner to the OHL) had had a priority selection in 1964 when Bobby Orr was 16 years old, he might not have gone first overall, either. Everyone has an opinion; The Hockey News did quote one scout who said Day was "nowhere near a player who dominated at his level of competition" compared to Ekblad, Connor McDavid and John Tavares at the same age. But that's a bygone.
Wherever Day is drafted is not an indication on how 'exceptional' he is. Granted status for a reason. Each team does what is best for them
— In The O... (@intheoradio) March 23, 2013
@intheoradio it is the lying season and the 67's don't want to tip their hand. If Kilrea still has input, Day will be a 67.
— Jim Reynolds (@studio_jim) March 23, 2013
If people want to believe this is a snow job, that's up to them. The recent history of draft manipulation could lead people to suspect the 67's might be trying to get out in front of it by making the alternative seem more credible to the Day camp. (For the record, Day has said he'll go wherever he's picked.)
Ottawa has all the cards here to try to mess with every other team who is trying to line up a player who will be available and who will report to their team. It's also true that five Eastern Conference teams in a row — Peterborough then Kingston, Mississauga, Niagara and Sudbury — are picking third through seventh overall. But the 67's haven't even acknowledged the news of Day receiving exceptional status on their official Twitter account.
As Don Campbell put it, the silence seems telling:
You can tell by what little the 67’s are saying and doing.
If Day’s last name was Tavares, Ekblad or McDavid, the people who run Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which now owns the 67’s, would have been celebrating Thursday night when Hockey Canada granted the 15-year-old can’t-miss star from the Detroit Compuware minor midgets exceptional status to enter the Ontario Hockey League draft one year early.
Would 67’s general manager and head coach Chris Byrne not be on his way to the Day’s home in Rochester, Mich., to sell Day on Ottawa in time for the draft, just 14 days away on April 6th?
Would 67’s governor Jeff Hunt not be heralding Day’s arrival as the key building block to lead the team back to Bank Street in 2014?
Instead, Bryne said the club has to make the best pick for the team and Hunt says they have settled on their player.
Ottawa can use help everywhere after its 16-win, 46-point season. While Barrie zoomed back to the top half of the standings after drafting Aaron Ekblad first overall in the 2011 priority selection draft, Ottawa will likely take baby steps next season. There is also some flux over whether it will lose franchise centre Sean Monahan to the NHL or get him back, whereupon he could be traded for younger players and picks. Those circumstances might be easier for a 16-year-old centre who's just another top pick than a 15-year-old defenceman who's been proclaimed exceptional. Ottawa could also use its import pick to shore up its defence corps, too.
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.