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Mississauga Steelheads’ Sean Day takes first matchup vs. Travis Konecny, Ottawa 67′s to heart

October 9, 2013

Sean Day is the youngest of the exceptional status players in the OHL (Mike Carroccetto for Yahoo! Canada Spor …What Sean Day says matters as much as how he plays, this early in the game.

A day later, it’s not clear if anyone should have expected more out of Tuesday. The Mississauga Steelheads defenceman had his first encounter against an Ontario Hockey League team that opted not to take Day after he was given exceptional status to play major junior at age 15, giving pause to rehash the Ottawa 67’s choice to take centre Travis Konecny with the No. 1 overall pick. Considering each young phenom’s callowness, there was a high likelihood it would be a fizzle. Konecny had one assist but was minus-1 during Ottawa’s 6-3 victory.

A 6-2 disadvantage in power plays for disrupted the Steelheads’ distribution of minutes. Day showed flashes of his high ceiling a couple times, particularly on one instance when he smoothly accelerated into a breakout rush with more grace than a 6-foot-2 kid who’s not even old enough to drive in Ontario should have any right to. Despite his disappointment, Day came out of the dressing room at Canadian Tire Centre and walked over to the gaggle of adults with various recording devices.

“It’s one of the teams that passed me up, so obviously it was a game that I wanted to win,” Day said. “We didn’t get that done so I’m kind of disappointed. We’ve all got to play better; we’re on a two-game losing streak now.

“I usually don’t put pressure on myself but it’s one of the teams that passed me up. Obviously you’re a little rattled when playing them. I was pumped coming into the game because I wanted to play them. I don’t know, I’m just disappointed.

“I’ve been playing to what my coaches expected me to,” the Rochester, Mich., resident added. “This game was a little bit rough, but every other game so far I’ve done what coaches have said to. I’m just trying to impress them and not care about what anyone else thinks.”

Konecny has eight points in as many games for Ottawa, second in scoring among OHL first-rounders to the London Knights’ Mitchell Marner, who’s surrounded by a significantly more accomplished supporting cost. The 16-year-old centre might force the odd play. Beyond the attendant anticipated minor midget-to-major junior adjustments, Konecny has been as good as advertised.

The Steelheads have maintained they are going to ease Day in the OHL grind. He’s also part of a team with one of the OHL’s youngest lineups, with 15 players who are 18 or younger. Citing traditional stats — three assists, minus-7 across seven games — misses the point entirely. (Mississauga has a minus-8 goal differential at even strength, so that helps explain the plus/minus ranking.)

Exceeding Missy’s expectations: ‘his play has demanded more’

Having the exceptional status automatically means attention in every OHL city, which is part of why the onus is on Hockey Canada and the Ontario Hockey Federation to be 100 per cent sure before letting a player into the year a season early. Day’s world-class skating and puck-handling more than checked out during last season’s evaluation process. There was, however, some speculation as a Michigan resident who identifies as Canadian created an urgency to get him into the OHL/Hockey Canada stream sooner rather than later.

That means he’s now learning the finer points of playing in his own zone on the job more than the typical highly touted offensive defenceman. So be patient.

“He’s doing very well,” Steelheads coach-GM James Boyd said on Tuesday night. “He’s working on his defensive game — I’m sure that the game is awfully fast for him, There’s flashes. He plays on our power play and kills penalties for us.

“We said that we’d be easing him in, but his play has demanded more,” Boyd added. “He’s been better than I thought this early in the season, [by the standard] of a young kid coming in. I thought maybe we’d play him 10-12 minutes and there’s been times he’s played up to 20.”

“When you get a power play late in the period, his number looks a little bigger when you’re looking down the bench.”

Ottawa committing to acquiring Konecny last spring created a domino effect. It became the first team to say it wouldn’t take a 15-year-old whom it could be guaranteed to have for three seasons rather than just two before the NHL draft. The Erie Otters then took centre Dylan Strome and the Peterborough Petes took another defenceman, Matt Spencer. That led to Day landing in Mississauga, which could be an ideal setting. Boyd is stressing the Steelheads want to put Day “in the right situations while he learns.”

Essentially, there will be a lot of times to revisit how Day was handled. It was hard not to come away from a hallway confab on Tuesday without thinking he’s still figuring out how to own his uniqueness of being the exceptional player who wasn’t exceptional enough to be chosen first. Call that editorializing, but it’s not as if he trotted out some ‘one game out of 68’ cliché.

Perhaps that is all conditioning, the effect of players being prodded, by advisers and parents, to start out with the Ricky Bobby mentality and then work from there. Day visibly brightened when reminded of the possible parallel between he and Nashville Predators rookie Seth Jones. Both are tall, graceful offensive defenceman. Each had plenty of hype ahead of the draft and went fourth overall.

“When I was watching the draft I actually looked at that and saw that he was the top defence going into the draft and went fourth,” Sean Day said. “We both went fourth. But that’s a completely different level. Thinking about it, that’s the NHL and he’s going to get a lot of ice time because he’s a good player.

“Hopefully I get a lot of ice time here because I’m a good player.”

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

Article source: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/jrhockey-buzzing-the-net/mississauga-steelheads-sean-day-takes-first-matchup-vs-155947508.html

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