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Sean Day hopes to prove 'exceptional' pick for Rangers

BUFFALO, N.Y. –  New York Rangers’ third-round draft pick Sean Day crowed about the strides he’s made in his conditioning and overall hockey abilities.

For Day it was important to point out that he does indeed have a high-level of talent and isn’t someone who dropped to the 81st overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft because of any issues with his dedication to the game.

“I’ve improved from last year to even now. I’m down to 12 percent body fat from 19 last year,” the defenseman said. “I can tell my skating’s improving and I’m still a big guy, so hopefully I can fit into their style of play I guess and bring something new that hopefully (the Rangers) don’t have.”

The decision to select Day with the 81st overall pick could be either a steal for New York, or it could be a pick that yields nothing in return. Both options wouldn’t be surprising.

Day received exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada in order to play in the OHL as a 15-year-old. This is the same level that was bestowed upon John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid.

But he hasn’t quite developed the same way as the other players, who went No. 1 overall in their respective years. With the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads, the 6-foot-2, 229-pound Day had 74 points in 178 games. In that stretch, he’s a minus-75.

Wrote Today’s Slapshot: 

While physically ready, Day seemed to have a rough time adjusting to the higher competition of the OHL. He played like most starting players do in minor hockey, “get the puck and go”, as the most talented player on the ice able to do what he wants. He was the biggest and strongest player in almost every game and was able to play at a speed and skill level that no opponent was used to.

Now up against older players who were just as talented, Day found himself struggling to adapt. Mistakes that would be easy to recover from before became amplified and would often end up costing his team. Day’s hockey intelligence and ability to adapt on the fly came into question very early and is a stigma that he has carried with him into his draft year. It is now the major reason he is falling down draft boards despite his tremendous skill.

Around the start of the 2015-16 season, NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr noted Day was still trying to figure out his skill set.

"He's an exceptional NHL skater," Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said. "He's got size and strength assets going for him. I still think he's still got to show everybody what his identity is as a player, what kind of player he's going to be and what kind of player he has the potential to be. He's got his time under his belt now. He's going into the OHL season with experience under his belt. It's showtime for him this year."

The easygoing Day said he doesn’t pay attention to some of the criticism that’s come his way.

“I’m a pretty positive guy. I’m pretty funny so I don’t really take anything to heart. People talk about the mental toughness of hockey players. If you don’t let things get to you, you can be a better player,” Day said. “No matter what people say you’re always going to be the same player you are as long as you keep developing and you can’t really do anything to change what they think. I think I’ve been pretty positive.”

Day said he used to just rely on his prodigious talent and didn’t take a lot of the conditioning work outside the rink seriously. Once he started to become more serious about working out he saw some marked improvements in his game.

“I think seeing results with the work I’ve been doing and finally seeing I’ve been getting stronger. I don’t think I had that before. I’ve said this a lot. I’m almost addicted to working out,” Day said. “So doing a lot of extra work with running and my conditioning afterwards just to burn that extra bit off. It’s a new Sean Day and hopefully the Rangers like that.”

Day was asked if he could make a splash in the NHL next season, which tends to be odd for a player picked so late. But a player who came into junior with his type of expectations never have to wait long to get picked late. He understood it comes with the territory and believes he needs to take more time in junior to become pro ready.

“You want to go in there and impress obviously but personally I think maybe another year of juniors just for mental development and development for speed and just being a dominant force at a junior level before hopping into pros is huge,” Day said. “These guys are the pros so they’re going to tell me what they want. Obviously I’m going to try to make the team but I think one year of junior would be huge for me development wise.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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