The way Sean Day has been set up to look like — bear in mind, look like — a failure before he even steps on the ice in the Ontario Hockey League stinks.
In all sincerity, anything that's appeared in this space about the 15-year-old defenceman since Hockey Canada and the Ontario Hockey Federation granted him exceptional status to play in the OHL next season contains a subtext of hope where the 6-foot-3 speedster does become the next Paul Coffey. The sports media runs on star power. In the present, though, the way it's unfolded with Day being declared exceptional and then having first the Ottawa 67's, apparently the Erie Otters and then the Peterborough Petes decide to stake their long-term planning on another bright young player might reveal the unintended consequences of a process that's intended to keep OHL teams and scouts out of it, although not without reason.
Bottom line, Day not going No. 1 is a pie in the face for Hockey Canada and the OHF. It shouldn't be put on the player or his family. Draft day is supposed to be a confirmation for the boy and his support network that all their sacrificing and striving is paying off.
From Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood):
It will be a tragic day if Hockey Canada’s fourth ever exceptional player falls to the number four slot but it seems like a real possibility. In all of my years of watching minor midget hockey, Sean Day is the best skater hands down. In all areas of skating ability — acceleration, agility, top-end speed, edge work, etc. — Day walks away as the best of the best. His competitiveness and hockey sense are two areas of question but he likely owns the highest upside of any player in this draft class. (The Hockey Writers)
Really, it's astounding. From Tony Saxon (@SaxonOnTheStorm):
It's hard to believe that Day, who has been compared to Paul Coffey in regard to his skill set, would fall that far, particularly given that Day has an extra year of eligibility, given his early-entrance status.
The OHL draft is notorious for its disinformation and rumour, so it will be very interesting to see how all this pans out. (Guelph Mercury)
Believe what you will about Day's unique identity as a American-trained Canadian player factored into the decision. This might be attributable to the need to make the process double-blind and exempt from the possible bias of OHL scouts. No doubt they had been doing their due diligence and background work all season long and found reason to believe there was less risk involved with selecting a 16-year-old. The thing is, they're not involved it, perhaps justifiably because of the "disinformation" thing, where one team might poor-mouth a player in hope he falls in the draft or, in this case, is still around next season when the scout's team might have a higher first choice.
Ottawa making it known that Travis Konecny was its guy also created a domino effect. There is strength in group think, so Ottawa passing created a domino effect. It made it easier for Erie, if indeed that's the case, to settle on a forward such as Dylan Strome. In turn, the Peterborough Petes also knew they could select Matthew Spencer with less risk of being first-guessed, even though Spencer might be more polished at this point and could fit in better to new Petes coach Jody Hull's defensive system.
Please also keep in mind that the priority selection draft, AKA The Dirtiest Day In Sports, is only perceived to be a mini-NHL draft. It's so not. The 30 NHL teams seldom have to worry that a draft choice will specifically refuse to play for their organization. (The so-called Russian factor applies to two entire leagues.) Ontario League teams have to determine which 4-5 players could be available when their turn comes up, and work to establish trust with each of them and their advisers, parents and who-not.
It's an agent- and parent-driven process, as much as fans of teams who are not the Kitchener Rangers, London Knights, Plymouth Whalers, Windsor Spitfires and a couple others grumble about it. That's how it ought to be when it comes down to the career prospects and welfare of 16-year-old boys.
No doubt the Mississauga Steelheads and Kingston Frontenacs, who hold the Nos. 4 and 5 picks on Saturday, never contemplated Day being available. They surely have been focusing on other young talents. Now they have to make an 11th-hour decision.
Ultimately, Day still has a very good chance at having a charmed hockey live. I don't even know if the system failed him, necessarily. The lesson here is that term "exceptional," as Sean Lafortune pointed out, is so nebulous. Does it mean it's for one player every 3-4 years who's a hands-down generational talent such as Connor McDavid, or is it for 3-4 players every season? The bottom line is this state of affairs could really be hard on the delicated confidence of a young player. That's the lesson.
Sean Day is very good but this is why I thought he wouldn't get exempt status.
— Matthew Barnaby (@MattBarnaby3636) April 4, 2013
Lots of irresponsible people hyped up Sean Day on Twitter & elsewhere without even watching him play. He deserves better. #ohl
— Pat Maloney (@PatatLFPress) April 4, 2013
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.