Owen Power is reportedly heading back to Michigan for his sophomore season. Power was selected first overall in the 2021 NHL Draft in July, but The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski reported on Thursday that the standout defenseman is officially putting his NHL debut on hold.
The move shouldn’t come as a surprise to Sabres fans. Power has hinted at it multiple times.
“Probably staying,” he said when chatting with the media after being drafted. He also said he was leaning toward staying in Ann Arbor, Mich., when asked during his pre-draft availability.
“I think I can step in and play, so I don’t think the decision would be whether or not I am ready to play,” Power said while donning the Sabres blue and gold. “I think it’s whether or not it’s better for my development at the end of the day.”
He also mentioned during his pre-draft media session that “my goal is to play one more year and then be ready to play in the NHL.”
Off the ice, Power’s freshman year was anything but normal because of COVID-19. He said a big reason to return is to experience college as it should be, with in-person classes and playing in front of the Yost Arena faithful.
On the ice, Power was exceptional for head coach Mel Pearson’s squad. He was the Big Ten’s top-scoring rookie defenseman with 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games. The 6-5, 214-pound native of Mississauga, Ont., was also named College Hockey News’ Rookie of the Year and was a finalist for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Michigan’s season ended because of COVID protocols just hours before they were set to play Minnesota Duluth in the Midwest Regional semifinal of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
In May, Power headed to Latvia and was a key member of Hockey Canada’s gold-medal-winning squad. At just 18, he showed immense poise in patrolling Canada’s blue line and was leaned on in key situations including the waning minutes of regulation with the championship game tied up.
Returning to Michigan — while a bit unprecedented, as most No. 1 picks head to the NHL ranks — makes the most sense. The Sabres are a team struggling to figure itself out (see: Jack Eichel; see: Rasmus Dahlin still not signed; see: the team is rebuilding) and will likely battle for the top pick again in 2022.
On the flip side, the Wolverines are expected to be a powerhouse in 2021-22. Power headlines a roster that could potentially include five 2021 first-round picks: Matty Beniers (selected second overall by the Kraken), Luke Hughes (fourth by the Devils), Kent Johnson (fifth by the Blue Jackets) and Mackie Samoskevich (No. 24 by the Panthers). The team also includes USA Hockey standouts Thomas Bordeleau (Sharks second-round pick in 2020), Brendan Brisson (29th overall in 2020 by the Golden Knights) and Johnny Beecher (Bruins first-round pick in 2019).
Power will most likely sign with the Sabres at the end of Michigan’s campaign — and what better way to do it than with an NCAA title, and maybe a Hobey Bakerm in hand.