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Peterborough Petes to take Matthew Spencer, not exceptional Sean Day, No. 3 overall — report

Neate Sager
Buzzing The Net

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Matthew Spencer has been called 'a man among boys' on the ice (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

Making it through the "lengthy process" to become an exceptional status player conferred that Sean Day possesses some emotional fortitude; that being the case, the 15-year-old defenceman with serious wow! factor might need it. There is further word is he will not be the first blueliner chosen in Saturday's OHL priority selection draft.

Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino reported recently that Day might not be selected before "the fifth pick in the OHL draft." Now the estimable Mike Davies is reporting that the Peterborough Petes, who choose No. 3 once the Ottawa 67's and Erie Otters respectively select centres Travis Konecny and Dylan Strome, are opting for Oakville Rangers defenceman Matthew Spencer.

The reasoning Davies elicited furnished from various sources might make your jaw hit the floor. Or not, since it's hockey:

While many might expect a player with exceptional status to go first overall some OHL scouts and managers have concerns about the player's maturity and whether he is a team player. Day tweeted messages this year on his Twitter account which raised concerns about his maturity, said one scout. His body language during games was another concern, said another OHL insider.

Others believe the fact Day has an extra year of junior eligibility, he's not eligible for the NHL draft until his third season, and is considered the best skater in the draft are strong reasons to select him.

“It's hard for me to believe all these teams are passing on Day,” said another scout who acknowledge Spencer is a solid option.

“Spencer is a heck of a player,” he said. “He's a character player who can play at both ends of the ice. If Day hadn't been granted exceptional player status there wouldn't have been any question about Spencer being the top defenceman. He's a stud.” (Peterborough Examiner)

One can already hear people twisting this any way they will — they're worried because of what he put on Twitter? What 15-year-old has great judgement!

It might be that the Petes liked what they saw in Matthew Spencer. HockeyProspect.com's absolutely essential OHL Draft Guide notes the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Spencer's "size and skating are on a level that separates him from the rest of his peers and his strength and speed are both assets that make him one of the most desirable defensemen in the draft."

The priority selection draft is a form of gambling. Teams generally want to make sure that what the late David Foster Wallace (when writing about young tennis players) called "bad head" is less likely to come into the equation. You just never know.

It's just a way of explaining why teams seem to be talking themselves out of selecting Day, even though his talents would seem to induce the Pavlovian response. Like my friend Stephen Kimber wrote in a piece on the making of the Halifax Mooseheads:

"What makes junior hockey so endlessly entertaining, frustrating and unpredictable is that it is played by teenaged boys who are themselves endlessly entertaining, frustrating and unpredictable."

Teams are trying to take that element out as much as possible.

It is worth wondering about whether the way the very, very gifted young players are fast-tracked by their advisers and parents — refer to Ken Campbell's book Selling The Dream — makes it easier to get through Hockey Canada's evaluation process. Growing up faster as an athlete isn't necessarily growing up better. Plus enough players have gone through it now that there's probably a better idea of how to answer the questions and avoid setting off red flags. Being able to grade out well on a standardized test isn't evidence of human potential, despite what the Ontario Ministry of Education would have you believe.

That might be where the scrutiny should lie. It's unfortunate it all gets put on Sean Day, but it's the way these young men are being rushed along.

From Lucas Punkari (@lpunkari):

“It just seems like you have seen more of it in the last couple of years, and you are noticing that in the WHL now, as well, as Tyler Benson is getting that exceptional tag thrown around him this year,” explained Sunaya Sapurji, the junior hockey editor for Yahoo Sports.

“I think with the amount of hockey that kids are playing nowadays, and with all of the things that out there to help them grow as a player, they are developing faster.

“But it’s important to note that those players have a lengthy process that they have to go through in order to get exceptional status from Hockey Canada, as they have to show they are not only prepared physically but mentally,” she stressed.

Although some might find that a third-straight year of a player entering the OHL to not be exceptional, [Sean] Lafortune feels that the continuing development of elite young hockey players has let do this occurring more regularly.

“Having been able to see the curve from the '92 birth year to the '97 class now, I think the players are more ready now when they are in their draft year,” he reasoned.

“I don’t want to say they are physically ahead of where those that were drafted a few years ago were, but they seem more ready to go and they are quickly making an impact once they get into the OHL.

“Maybe exceptional status isn’t the right word for it,” added Lafortune. “But when you look at those players in a vacuum and the impact that they have made, I don’t think they have got one wrong yet in my opinion." (Fort Frances Times)

Ultimately, Sean Day is still going to be very good at hockey by the time he's 18 or 20 years old. It is fascinating that three OHL franchises who are already under heavy scrutiny after finishing out of the playoffs have said not for us. It's only going to get heavier. But as Sean Lafortune pointed out, exceptional status players who are not taken No. 1 overall might become a new normal.

Ottawa, which picks first overall, is introducing its No. 1 pick on Friday afternoon.

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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