BUFFALO - Defenseman Sean Day was called exceptional at 15, but he believes the best for him is yet to come.
The New York Rangers selected Day in the third round (No. 81), their first pick of the 2016 NHL Draft on Saturday.
"I was their first pick and it only took them four seconds to pick me," Day said. "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."
Day had been granted exceptional player status in 2013, allowing him to be drafted into the Ontario Hockey League one year younger than is the standard.
He was the fourth OHL player to earn that distinction, along with New York Islanders captain John Tavares in 2005, Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad in 2011 and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid in 2012. Joe Veleno earned exceptional player status into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2015.
Tavares, Ekblad and McDavid were picked first in their respective OHL drafts and went on to be the first player picked in their NHL draft years.
Video: Sean Day joins the guys to talk Draft day
Day's time in the OHL hasn't gone as smoothly. Mississauga selected him with the fourth pick, and he has 22 goals and 74 points in 178 games. Day had six goals and 22 points in 57 games this season. NHL Central Scouting had him No. 59 in its final ranking of North American skaters.
But Day, who was measured at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds at the 2016 NHL Scouting Combine, believes that he's in better shape now than he's been at any point in his hockey career. He's devoted to being in better shape and believes he'll get better as he gets older.
"I've cut down from 19 to 12 percent body fat," he said. "Even from the end of the season to now, I'm going to keep improving. … My diet is way better. I'm taking a lot of dehydrated vegetables and fruits every day. Any way I can get my veggies and my fruits in I'm doing it, where before I wasn't. I'm eating a lot more meat than carbs. And then my workout regimen is unbelievable. I'm running every single day, biking almost every single day. Then I'm doing my workouts where I'm putting up unbelievable weight. Just showing how strong I can be and seeing that it gives me the positive mindset. 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 seeing how his body and game has improved so far makes him want to work even harder.
"It's addicting," he said. "I think you see the results and the effects that it has on you, I want to keep crushing it and keep showing people that I can be in shape and I can be that good. They've never seen me play when I am in shape so I am excited for next year when I'll be in that top-caliber shape and just show what I have."