Top Rangers’ prospect Sean Day took part in a Game Seven playoff matchup last night against the London Knights, who are the New York Yankees of junior hockey. Those kinds of games are meaningful for any player, but maybe particularly so for Day. Having had his mental makeup questioned his entire junior career, his performance in such a high profile game would shed some light into the progress he has made. For that reason, and because I have no life, I decided to record as many notable shifts of his as possible. I ended up with over eight minutes of video, and am posting it here for you to watch. If this is too much for you, then skip down to the written summary. If you are watching, then look for number 74 in white.
The first thing that should stand out about Day is his skating. Forwards, backwards, lateral, crossovers, and so on. It’s completely effortless and well above the ability of practically everyone else his age. The skating makes him intimidating when he’s carrying the puck. Players back off knowing that he can burn them even using the outside lane, and thus he’s able to make possessed zone entries by himself. However, it sometimes backfires, with him trying to be a hero and make a play that isn’t there. It will only get tougher at the pro level when teams are tactically stronger and will make him pay more often for turnovers. Nonetheless, his confidence and creativity are positives.
He was a force in the offensive zone. He finds shooting lanes and has a strong shot. In this game, he put seven shots on goal and had many other attempts. His passing ability was also on display on the power play, with one assist and another near miss. Day ended up with five assists in the seven-game series, which is very good production given the circumstances. Day often only saw the ice for 30-40 seconds of each power play due to Canadiens’ top prospect Mikhail Sergachev (not unjustifiably) taking long PP shifts.
There are a few times that Day’s biggest weakness, defensive zone coverage, was exposed. Sometimes he puck watches, which leads to him losing his assignment. Other times, he’s too passive in allowing bodies and the puck to enter the slot.
Day’s final OHL game this season was a fair representation of his post-draft campaign. By no means perfect, but the good certainly outweighed the bad. There’s still a lot of improvement needed, but he made tremendous strides forward. The things Day needs to work on can be coached. Most of the things he does well can’t be replicated.
Despite Windsor’s elimination from the OHL playoffs, this is not the end of Day’s season. Windsor hosts this year’s Memorial Cup, which begins in mid-May. Facing the OHL, QMJHL, and WHL champions after six weeks without competitive action will be yet another test for Day, but one he can prepare for with confidence he perhaps lacked in years prior.