Sean Day was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada in 2013, allowing him to play his 15-year-old season in the OHL. Since then, his OHL career has been marred by inconsistency, but the raw upside is still very evident.
His OHL career began with an underwhelming 2013-2014 season on a weak Mississauga Steelheads squad. The following season, Day made notable progression, tallying 36 points in 61 games, and was one of the Steelheads' top players throughout the season.
At the onset of this past season, it looked like Day was ready for the next step. He had a strong previous season and the young Steelheads team brought in a ton of fresh talent. However, Day's slipped to just 22 points in 55 games, and his overall game stagnated. Rookie Nic Hague emerged as the team's new top defender, taking Day's spot on the first powerplay unit in the process. Furthermore, questions of Day's conditioning and work ethic swirled.
Birthplace: Leuven, Belgium
Day's skating ability is highly regarded, and for good reason. Blessed with a perfect stride, blistering top-end speed, and explosive first-step acceleration, Day's skating would already place in the NHL's elite. Graceful edge work and sneaky quick agility allow Day to weave around the ice with ease and keep up the fastest forwards.
Day combines his elite footwork with a dizzying set of hands and a constant desire to carry the puck. Once he obtains possession in his own zone, his unique ability to rush the puck out while under intense pressure is constantly displayed.
He has the vision and passing ability to connect with a beautiful, crisp pass. However, he's too reliant on carrying the puck himself, and often skates himself into positions where his only option is an uncontrolled exit.
While Day's production is trending down, his defensive game is going the opposite. In the second half of the season, Day made considerable improvements around his net and along the boards. Day can be a punishing defender, utilizing his heavy frame to bully forwards.
His gap control and stick placement tend to be too passive. Adding consistency in his defensive game will be integral for his NHL future.
The same tools that make Day successful as a puck rusher are rarely on display in the offensive zone. Although possessing a heavy, accurate shot, Day instead fires soft pucks toward the net. Day is typically glued to the point, rarely activating or sneaking into the zone. The vision that Day can display in his own zone isn't shown in the offensive zone. Despite the tools that say otherwise, Day lacks creativity in the offensive zone.
What keeps Day from being a force at the OHL level certainly isn't the lack of physical tools--it's decision-making. Poor decision-making in all areas, whether that be defensively, in possession, or in the offensive zone, prevents him from becoming a high-end player.
Future Considerations: 91st
Hockey Prospect: 103rd
Central Scouting, NA Skaters: 59th
Having spent many nights and afternoons at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga this season, I can confidently say that Sean Day is a highly talented hockey player. My viewings this season ranged from noticeably bad to best player on the ice.
There were games where the elite skating and puck rushing ability were on full display. But there were other games where Day was a turnover machine who skating himself directly into traffic. The former looks like a top-30 pick, a potential top-four defender in the NHL; the latter, perhaps a late round flyer at best.
While the physical tools are immediately striking, the decision-making and consistency are what hold him back. If a team feels that the decision-making can be fixed, then he would be a very worthwhile gamble as early as the second round. If not, perhaps he's not even worth a draft pick.
Tossing away the off-ice and work ethic stuff (as I have no way knowing about it), I think Day is a worthwhile gamble for the Montreal Canadiens. Certainly not in the first or second, but in the third or later, if he lasts that long.