John Tavares, now with the Islanders, was the first player to earn exceptional status. (Bennett Cohen/Icon SMI)
By Allan Muir
When Hockey Canada came up with the exceptional player status as an option to advance the development of high-end players in the Ontario Hockey League, the thinking was that this sort of athlete might come around once in a decade.
But with today’s news that Sean Day had been granted the status, it seems the exceptions are becoming the norm.
Day, a 15-year-old defenseman from Detroit’s highly regarded Compuware program, becomes the fourth player to be allowed to enter the OHL a year early, and the third in three years.
Despite the surprising streak, it’s clear the bar hasn’t been set too low. John Tavares was the first player to earn the distinction in 2005. Four years later, he was the first overall pick in the NHL draft.
Two years ago, it was defenseman Aaron Ekblad. He went first overall in the OHL draft to Barrie, and is expected to be a top-10 pick in the 2014 NHL draft. Connor McDavid earned the exemption last spring. He was Erie’s best player this year, and USA Today compared him to LeBron James in terms of his potential to impact his sport.
And now Day, a proud Canadian who has never lived in the country, gets the chance to prove he’s up to the challenge of the world’s toughest junior circuit.