It’s not a shocker, but it is pretty newsworthy. The OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads have traded New York Rangers draft pick Sean Day to the Windsor Spitfires. Why are we blogging about a CHL trade? Well, there’s a lot of context to unpack here.
Day, after all, has been making headlines since Hockey Canada granted him exceptional status in 2013, allowing him to join the OHL a year early. The physically gifted defenseman became the first and only player ever to get that designation and not be drafted first overall into his major junior league. Day went fourth to Mississauga in 2013, behind Travis Konecny, Dylan Strome and Matthew Spencer. The decision to grant him exceptional status was questioned right from the beginning and being placed in the same category as John Tavares, Connor McDavid and Aaron Ekblad is intimidating to say the least. One player garnered exceptional status after Day, and that was Joe Veleno of the QMJHL. Veleno went first overall to Saint John in 2015 and is on track to be one of the top picks in the 2018 NHL draft.
Day ended up as a third-round draft pick of the Rangers in 2016 and is by no means finished as a prospect.
In fact, the trade to Windsor could really help him. As mentioned before, Day has tremendous physical gifts. He’s a big body who skates like the wind and the Steelheads even played him on right wing in a pre-season game. What has held him back in his junior career so far is his decision-making and hockey sense. Sometimes he’ll make mental mistakes and bail himself out with his skating, but sometimes he’ll get burned.
Windsor is hosting the Memorial Cup this year, so obviously the Spitfires are preparing for a long playoff run and a vigorous defense of home ice for the CHL classic itself. Windsor’s No. 1 defenseman is Mikhail Sergachev, currently plying his trade with the Montreal Canadiens (though he seems like a nine games-and-back situation). Behind Sergachev, the Spitfires have some nice depth on the blueline. Logan Stanley (Winnipeg) is a fellow 2016 first-rounder, while Jalen Chatfield went to San Jose Sharks camp. So Day doesn’t have to be a huge contributor to Windsor, he just has to be part of a solid collective.
And Mississauga will be fine. The Steelheads essentially just got a couple of draft picks in return (two second-rounders, a third and a fifth go to Sauga, while Windsor gets a third and a sixth along with Day. The picks are for drafts ranging from 2017 to 2020), but it won’t be long before Detroit Red Wings pick Vili Saarijarvi returns from a wrist injury that has kept him from making his Steelheads debut since being acquired from Flint in the summer.
Day leaving Mississauga has been a possibility since last year’s trade deadline, when potential deals were looked into and encouraged by Day’s camp. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the kid since that exceptional status ruling, but hopefully for all involved, this trade will open up a new chapter.