The “exceptional” star that has been anything but in professional hockey, will get another chance. Sean Day has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 2020-21 season.
Now 22, Day is infamously one of the few players that was granted exceptional status to play in the CHL a year early. While the ones who came before him—John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid—were all selected first overall in their respective NHL drafts, Day slipped to the third round after a less-than-dominant OHL career. The 6’3″ defenseman was picked by the Rangers in 2016, but ended up going back to the OHL for two more seasons and then ending up in the minor leagues.
Since turning pro in 2018, Day has played nearly as many games in the ECHL as in the AHL and still hasn’t cracked an NHL roster. This season he split his time between the Hartford Wolf Pack and Maine Mariners, performing much better at the lower level. His contract was terminated at the end of May after clearing unconditional waivers, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Even without much success, there is a reason why teams will continue to believe in Day. There is obvious raw talent, with the size and offensive ability to be a difference-maker at the highest level. The Tampa Bay front office must believe their development system can do what the Rangers’ couldn’t, as even an NHL contract is a surprise at this point.