The big defenseman earned Exceptional Status in the OHL but had a rocky road after that. Now that the Rangers have waived the prospect, the next step is unknown.
Sean Day (right)|Aaron Bell/OHL Images
The future is uncertain for Sean Day, the 22-year-old defenseman who was just waived by the New York Rangers. While it is not normally news when a third-round pick is cut loose from an organization, Day has never been a typical case. And given where his career is right now, it’s only fair to ask what could have been if he had never been put in the spotlight at such an early age.
Day was awarded Exceptional Status to join the OHL a year early in 2013 and even back then it was a controversial decision. Born in Belgium and raised in Michigan by Canadian parents, Day played for top Detroit-area programs such as Little Caesar’s, Honeybaked and Compuware. He was a big kid who could really skate and though scouts were intrigued, few saw him in the same category as other Exceptional Status players like Connor McDavid or Aaron Ekblad. As it turns out, neither did some OHL teams.
Day became the first and only player in major junior to earn Exceptional Status and not go first overall in his home league’s draft. McDavid, Ekblad, John Tavares and Shane Wright all went No. 1 in the OHL, while Joe Veleno did the same in the QMJHL and just this year, Connor Bedard in the WHL.
Day was selected fourth overall in the 2013 OHL draft, after Travis Konecny, Dylan Strome and Matthew Spencer (Mitch Marner went 19th, but he was also really small at the time).
Playing for the Steelheads, Day certainly showed off some potential, but there were always concerns. He didn’t think the game at a high level, which prompted numerous turnovers or poor decisions in his own end. Thanks to his skating ability, he could sometimes fix those mistakes before they became goals-against, but that was because his opponents were teenagers; that would never fly at the pro level. Off the ice, there were concerns about conditioning and attitude.
Nonetheless, there was enough on the positive side of the ledger to justify New York spending a third-round pick on his services in the 2016 NHL draft.
The high point of Day’s career came in 2017, after a trade from Mississauga to the Windsor Spitfires. The Spits were hosting the Memorial Cup and after a tough first-round OHL playoff loss, Windsor would go on to win the national title on home ice, defeating the OHL champion Erie Otters. Day was a solid contributor, though Windsor’s best defenseman at the time was future NHLer Mikhail Sergachev.
Though he could have gone to the pros after that, Day spent a fifth season in junior, split between a rebuilding Windsor squad and a primed Kingston Frontenacs. Then it was time to turn pro.
Day spent last season and this season splitting his time between the AHL and ECHL. After spending the majority of his rookie pro campaign with AHL Hartford, he spent the majority of this season with ECHL Maine – so the young man was going backwards.
So the news that New York would be waiving Day, thus making him an unrestricted free agent, was not surprising. Had his name not been so known, it wouldn’t even be a news story. But it’s hard not to wonder if his career would have been helped tremendously by spending one more year in minor hockey instead of jumping to the OHL a season early.
Day was already playing in one of the best developmental regions in the United States and surely his coaches could have helped him spend more time on his defensive play and systems work. But he went for Exceptional Status and the wish was granted. The genie was out of the bottle and Day never lived up to the lofty hype.