Rangers take ‘exceptional’ gamble Sean Day with first pick

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John Tavares, first overall, 2009.

Aaron Ekblad, first overall, 2014.

Connor McDavid, first overall, 2015.

Sean Day, 81st overall, 2016.

Just the fourth player to be granted “exceptional status” to enter the Ontario Hockey League as a 15-year-old, Day had to sit around until Round 3 Saturday to join the NHL.

Still, with the New York Rangers having dealt away their first- and second-round selections, the Mississauga Steelheads defenceman did become the Blueshirts’ first choice of the draft.

“I was their first pick, and it only took them four seconds to pick me,” Day told reporters. “I can tell that they want [me], and that’s the most important part — going to a team that wants you not a team that has to take you because you’re on the board.”

Because of the trio of superstars Day followed as an “exceptional” talent, bigger things were expected of the Belgium-born, Detroit-raised prospect.

A falling draft stock couldn’t wipe a smile off Day’s face, however.

“You feel like you want to faint,” he told the NHL Network. “Being compared to Connor McDavid isn’t as easy as people think it is.”

Often criticized for his conditioning, Day told reporters in Buffalo that he recommitted himself to the gym last year and is now addicted to working out. He’s eating dehydrated fruits and vegetables and running daily.

Day, who’s listed at six foot two and 228 pounds, said his body fat down from 19 to 12 per cent.

“I can see it in my on-ice training every day, how much better I’m getting, even from the end of the season to now. With my skating I feel even faster and I never thought I’d say that. I feel unbelievable. I feel really positive and confident in next year. With the summer it’s going to be awesome,” Day said.

The teenager has always been a fantastic skater, but as a minus-75 blue-liner over his three OHL campaigns, Day wasn’t quite the gem the Steelheads had predicted.

Perhaps the Rangers landed a steal in Round 3?

“I want to keep crushing it and keep showing people that I can be in shape and I can be that good,” Day added. “They’ve never seen me play when I am in shape, so I’m excited for next year when I’ll be in that top-calibre shape and just show what I have.”

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