When it comes to the 2016 NHL Draft, defensive prospect Sean Day’s situation is confusing at best and polarizing at worst.
In scouting, it is often just as important to scout a player off the ice as it is on it. Earlier this season, there was talk of Day being disengaged or simply not caring due to distracted and inconsistent play. At one point, he even left his OHL team, the Mississauga Steelheads, to return home, leading many to wonder if he would be flipped at the OHL trade deadline. In reality, Day was dealing with some fairly heavy family matters and had returned home to get his head together.
Rated as a B prospect by Central Scouting, Day is unlikely to be taken in the first round due to his lack of consistency. However, with his elite skating skill—so high-level that it gives him an effortlessness that is easily mistaken for disinterest—he is still a valuable prospect. More and more, mobile defensemen are becoming a necessity at both ends of the ice. While there are valid concerns about his on-ice decision-making, that is an issue that can be addressed with time and experience.
All aspects of the player considered, Day is a prospect worth taking a chance on. The question is—what team takes that chance? With all of the pressure that comes along with being granted exceptional status, and the fact that Day himself has said that in hindsight he isn’t sure it was best for his development, Day seems like a player that will flourish away from the spotlight of a media-heavy, traditional hockey market.
His best-case scenario is that a team takes him in the second round, brings him to camp and determines where he needs to focus his efforts over the next season. The Arizona Coyotes and the Carolina Hurricanes both currently have their second-round picks, according to General Fanager, and though the argument for each team drafting Day is quite different, both scenarios could be mutually beneficial.
Arizona needs good defensive prospects, and one of their strengths of late with regard to prospect development is the psychological side of things. With Day’s unique off-ice situation, this could be particularly valuable for him. They also seem to have a good handle on determining what their prospects need to work on before sending them back to junior, and going into next season with a set plan in his mind would be good motivation.
In Carolina, they’ve had recent success developing defensemen, and it seems like many of their best defensive prospects have made the leap to the NHL. Why not start restocking the cupboard by taking a chance on Day and seeing if you can repeat that success?
Carolina is an organization wherein no one will expect Day to be the next Erik Karlsson, Justin Faulk or Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and that lack of pressure can be invaluable to a prospect who has felt the scrutiny of the media and the weight of his exceptional status keenly the past couple of years.
Day won’t make the leap to the NHL in his first post-draft season, and likely won’t his second. This is not a failing of any kind on his part — defensemen who make the NHL that quickly are the exception, rather than the norm. A prospect who takes a few years to develop is not any less valuable to an organization, and with both Arizona and Carolina, the need for homegrown defensemen is not currently so great that they will feel any pressure to rush him.
Free of the distraction of his draft year, and with the support of an NHL organization behind him, Day should be able to settle onto a solid development path.