The proof wasn’t quite in the pudding during the recent NHL draft combine, but Sean Day is confident he’s turning a corner when it comes to his physical fitness.
“I’m always going to be a heavy guy,” said Day after his workouts in Buffalo. “I’m really bottom heavy just with my legs. If I can drop down to 220 (or) 225 (pounds), the workouts and conditioning I’ve been doing with the intense training, hopefully that can benefit me a bit.”
Shedding weight, or most specifically keeping if off, has been an issue for Day throughout his high-profile junior career so far.
Known as a slick, effortless skater, the bulky Day entered the OHL as an exceptional status player in 2013. He followed John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid in that line of distinction, an almost sure sign that superstardom was to follow.
However, Day wasn’t named to Canada’s Ivan Hlinka team last August. The 6-foot-3 defenceman admitted in the fall that being 15 pounds overweight probably didn’t help his chances. After a season in which he posted six goals and 22 points – a drop-off from his 2014-15 output of 10 goals and 36 points – Day wasn’t asked to play on the under-18 team in April, either.
Three of his teammates with the Mississauga Steelheads did go: 2016 first-round NHL prospect Mike McLeod, plus two players, winger Owen Tippett and defenceman Nicolas Hague, who aren’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2017.
Day said Steelheads coach James Richmond, who was promoted from the assistant’s gig in May, has been on him about his fitness since the start of the season. The message is sinking in.
“I’ve never been on the ice and working out every single day like this before,” said Day, who currently tips the scales at 230 pounds. “This off-season what’s different is I talked about being addicted to it almost. With my extra time I’ll start running or I’ll get a lift in or I’ll be on the ice. I feel really positive about what’s been happening.”
Day cracked two of the top 25 spots in a particular category at the combine. But Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce noted his efforts at many stations were somewhere between poor and terrible. Joyce found that Day’s body fat percentage (14.9) was also the highest of any prospect at the combine.
“I think it’s a long-term commitment,” said one NHL executive. “This is just the start of it for him. I don’t think you can make that judgment until a couple years down the road.
“He’s obviously put in some work. He’s a really talented kid. Maybe it works out for him. You can’t overlook the talent.”
The Belgium-born, Rochester, Mich.-trained blueliner was talented enough to earn that exceptional status three years ago. The three players preceding him all were selected first overall in the NHL draft. That trend will end with Day.
NHL Central Scouting slots him 59th among North American skaters. He was 43rd midway through the season. North American Central Scouting has him rated 47th overall in its final rankings. Future Considerations puts him 91st.
For his part, Day has always been steadfast in his beliefs that he’s one of the most talented prospects available in the draft.
“Who knows what’ll happen,” he said. “I’ve been doing my best in the off-season to answer any questions about my conditioning and my physical levels. I feel a lot healthier. I think I have a commitment to the game I never had before.
“If there was a team that took a chance on me in the first round, I can guarantee that it wouldn’t be a disappointment. I feel like I do have a first-round package and a first-round skill set. If I can just tune everything up with the offensive part of it, I could be a pretty good player.”
Day has had his share of challenges off the ice. He revealed to Sportsnet’s Damien Cox at the Top Prospects Game that one of his three brothers, Scott, is serving time in prison after being convicted for killing a 62-year-old woman while driving impaired. His mother also suffers from lupus, a disease in which the body attacks its own organs and tissue.
Throw in the fact he has to live up to those lofty expectations and there is a lot to take in.
“A lot of people forget that we’re just kids still,” he said.
Day met with 19 teams and felt the interviews went well. He kept the mood light by making little jokes.
“I thought he was really good in the interview, probably totally different than we expected,” the executive said. “He answered a couple questions really, really well. We learned about Sean Day instead of hearing hearsay and innuendo.”
A comment like that bodes well for Day – especially as he aims to round, er, chisel out his bod.
“Before I just kind of did whatever got me by,” he said. “I think seeing the results, though, makes me want to be in the gym even more, create a machine almost.”
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