Very few hockey players are granted the honor of Exceptional Player Status, this means that they are eligible to play one year earlier than everybody else in the CHL. This decision is not only based on talent but also the panel also uses academics and maturity level to determine if a player should be granted this privilege.
Only 7 players were granted Exceptional Player Status so far:
- John Tavares – 2005
- Aaron Ekblad – 2011
- Connor McDavid – 2012
- Sean Day – 2013
- Joe Veleno – 2015
- Shane Wright – 2019
- Connor Bedard – 2020
What does the Exceptional Player Status Mean?
The exceptional player status grants the hockey player to play a year younger than usually allowed in one of the Canadian Junior Hockey Leagues. Either the Western Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The focus of this is that the player would benefit more by developing at a higher skill level than he currently his allowed to play.
John Tavares (2005)
Tavares was drafted by the Oshawa Generals as an underage player, the first one to be awarded the Exceptional Status. Since then, Tavares won the world junior championship gold medal, the 2014 Olympic Gold Medal and is considered on of the best player in the NHL.
Aaron Ekblad (2011)
The first-ever defenceman to be awarded this honor, Aaron Ekblad is already showing that he’s got what it takes to play in the NHL. With only 13 games played with the Florida Panthers Ekblad already has 8 points!
Connor McDavid (2012)
Everyone in hockey knows the name… Almost 10 years later he has more than proven that he is an exceptional hockey player. Even in the current NHL he is showing signs that he’s above the average NHL player. He’s the fastest and most skilled player in the league at this moment and not a single player is close to showing McDavid’s skillset.
Sean Day (2013)
Probably the least known player on this list. Sean Day showed decent numbers for a 15-year-old in the OHL with the Mississauga Steelheads back in 2014. He did improve the year after but after that it was pretty much the same stats that he was pulling. After being drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Rangers, Sean Day has been spending his hockey career in the AHL and the ECHL.
Joseph “Joe” Veleno – 2015
The first player to be granted this status in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Q for short. While Veleno didn’t show NHL franchise player numbers in the Q, he did very well for a 15-year-old in the Q.
In 2018 he got drafted by the Detroit Red Wings and played his first pro season in the AHL.
Shane Wright – 2019
Connor Bedard – 2020
The latest player to be awarded exceptional player status, Connor Bedard, currently plays for the Reinga Pats in the WHL. It was set to be his first Junior hockey season in 2021, but with Covid-19, the WHL decided to suspend their operations. The kid still has a long way to the NHL but numbers from LEVEL are very promising!