Sean Day entered the OHL as a fifteen year old this season. He became the fourth ever player granted exceptional player status to enter the league early. With the success of John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, and Connor McDavid before him, there has been a lot of pressure for Day to live up to the exceptional player label that he was given.
Unfortunately Friday was a rough night for the Steelheads as they lost to their former cross-town rivals, now playing in North Bay, the Battalion by a score of 4-0. While disappointed at the result, Day and the Steelheads know that they need to put the game behind them and go forward with their game Sunday which is a tough matchup in Kingston.
Given his age, Day has lived up to the hype so far. The fourth overall pick in the OHL draft has played big minutes, taking on a top four role on the Mississauga blue line. He’s improved as the season has gone on, and Mississauga fans have a lot to look forward to as Day matures over the next several years. Day even made an appearance for Team Ontario at the Under 17s, and says that the tournament really helped him to mature as a player and gave him a lot of confidence going forward. There has been much made of Day’s international status going forward given the number of years he lived in the United States, Day addresses that and more in our interview.
In watching Day it is clear what has him as the early favorite for the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft. He has excellent size as he is already 6’2″ at just 15-years-old. He also has great skating. His strides both forwards and backwards are long and smooth. His mobility is already top notch. He has great offensive instincts, the ability to rush the puck and to run the powerplay from the point, a hard shot, and great passing skill and vision. Day has some things to work on in his own end, but the talent and work ethic are there and he continues to get better week to week and game by game. He is not intimidated and willing to play a physical game against opponents who are older and who have more muscle on their frame at this point in their development. Quite simply, Day has everything a scout looks for in a defenceman, and has the potential to be elite.
For now though, Day is focused on the last four games of the regular season as he and the Steelheads are in a three-team dog fight for the last two spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Day was generous enough to sit down with LWOS for an interview after Friday’s game. Here is what he had to say about the game and his season so far:
LWOS: Sean, you guys have had trouble with North Bay this year. What do they do that causes your team so much problems?
Sean Day: They play a very strong defensive trap. They have a lot of big bodies that can skate, and when we try to penetrate the zone, they do a good job of making that very difficult to do. We have not been able to generate any consistent offence against them to this point.
LWOS: With the playoff chase the way it is right now, how do you bounce back from this loss, and get ready to go on Sunday against Kingston?
SD: We just have to forget about it, the game is over now. Tomorrow, we need to get a good practice in and start thinking about the game on Sunday. That game is going to be a lot like this one, tight checking and fast skating. The Frontenacs are one of the better teams in the conference, so we need to be prepared to bring our A game to Kingston.
LWOS: You were one of the most hyped players entering the OHL this season. How have you dealt with that pressure, and how have you adjusted to the league?
SD: Up until Christmas time or so, I found the game to be moving very fast. However, after I played in the Under 17s with Team Ontario, I have a lot more confidence with the puck. I have also been taking pride in my defensive zone work, and the game seems to be coming a bit easier every time I play. Hopefully that will continue next year, and the year after that as well. Just being used to the pace of play and having confidence will continue to make the game easier.
LWOS: If we can go back to Tuesday’s game, you scored two big goals in the third period to help the Steelheads make the comeback and get a point in a huge game against Ottawa. Can you tell me a bit about how that came about?
SD: We were down 4-2 and coach told us to start jumping up into the play and make sure we get shots on net. On the first goal I saw an opening in the middle. So I jumped into that free ice. Josh Burnside made a great pass to get me the puck, and I was able to put it home in the open net.
On the second one, I got open as Stefan Leblanc got me the puck along the wall. Their defender was pressuring me, and so I went wide down the wall, and took a shot that was able to get over the goalie’s shoulder on short side.
LWOS: There has been some talk out there about your future in the IIHF. Some reports have said that you will have a tough choice to make between Team Canada and Team USA down the road. Now you played for Team Ontario at the Under 17s, but of course that isn’t an official IIHF sanctioned event. Do you want to clear that up for us?
SD: I’m not sure where all the confusion stems from, but I’d love to clear it up. I’m a Canadian Citizen with a Canadian passport. I may have lived in the United States for some time but I was not a citizen and was there under a green card due to my father’s job. I do not have American Citizenship or a Passport and at this point I’m not trying to get those as it would be very hard right now. I am 100% committed to Hockey Canada.
LWOS: Thanks a lot for doing this Sean, and good luck down the stretch.
You can follow Sean Day on twitter (@SeanDay66) and the Steelheads on twitter (@OHLSteelheads) and at the official team website, mississaugasteelheads.com as they make their final playoff push. They are on the road against Kingston on Sunday, and then at Niagara on Thursday March 13th. They finish the season at home to Niagara on March 14th and home to Kingston on March 16th. With things being so tight between Mississauga, Niagara, and Ottawa, these games will have a playoff type of feel and intensity.
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