Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The NHL gave the media a chance on Tuesday to speak with 10 of the top prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft later this month.
It’s almost a forgone conclusion that the Buffalo Sabres will take Owen Power with the No. 1 overall pick. About a month ago, Power came out and said he’s leaning towards returning to Michigan for his sophomore season. He said that mindset hasn’t changed.
“I wouldn’t say I’m committed to going back to school. I’m probably leaning towards it, but it’s something that I have to talk with whatever team drafts me,” Power said.
The 18-year-old defenseman also said on Tuesday he’s meeting with Kevyn Adams and the Sabres on Thursday.
Many fans are convinced that Power wants nothing to do with the Sabres and he’s going to play all four years at Michigan and give up all that money just to spite the team. No first overall pick in the draft has ever done that, and Power said he has a definite plan that is not playing four years of college hockey.
“If I was to go back to school, my goal is to play one more year and then be ready to play in the NHL,” he said.
Because of COVID-19, Power didn’t get the typical college experience either on or off the ice.
“That’s why I want to go back to school, to be able to experience the true college experience, especially at Michigan with Yost and the fans," Power said. "I think it would be pretty special, and actually to be able to do stuff other than go to the rink and home.”
Playing at Michigan isn’t the only reason why Power wants to put off the NHL for one season. He also has aspirations of representing Canada at the World Junior Championship this winter.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the World Juniors," Power said. "I think that’s just another reason that goes with looking to go back to school. That definitely plays a part.”
The 6-foot-6 and 214-pound, left-handed defenseman understands what he has to do going forward to get to the top league in the world.
“For pro hockey, it’s just continue to develop my game," Power said. "I need to continue to get stronger, faster and quicker, and keep developing the areas of my game that I think needs work on.
“If you look at all the top guys, they’re good on both sides of the puck. I’m a two-way defenseman that can play in all situations and log a lot of minutes. I think any team in the NHL would want someone like that.”
Power learned a lot playing for Canada at the World Championship this year in Latvia. He won a gold medal playing with, and against NHL players.
“There were a lot of guys good to me that really helped me through it," Power said. "Guys like Connor Brown and Adam Henrique, Colin Miller and Darcy Kuemper were all guys that were really good to me and taught me a lot of stuff just talking one-on-one.”
Two of Power’s teammates at Michigan are going to be high picks in this year's draft, and defenseman Luke Hughes is coming to the Wolverines for his freshman year.
Matty Beniers is rated fifth overall in this year’s draft by The Hockey News. He had 24 points in 24 games with Michigan as a freshman. He, too, was at the World Championship, but played for Team USA. He loved what he saw from Power this year.
“He had a great year at Michigan," Beniers said of his Michigan teammate. "I thought he played really well at the Mens Worlds. He got a lot of opportunity and really took advantage of it.
"He’s a good friend, and he’s such an all-around player. So big, he can move his feet, and I hope he can go as high as he can.”
Kent Johnson was also a freshman at Michigan this past season, where he put up 27 points in 26 games. Johnson is ranked eighth by The Hockey News and he said Power comes as advertised.
“I could definitely sing his praises all day," Johnson said. "Right when I got to Michigan, I could tell how special he was. It was really fun to be able to train with that guy every day. [At] the World Championships, it wasn’t too surprising to me to see what he did. I remember I was watching the first period of the game and I was thinking they’ve got to get this guy out more. It was awesome to see.”
Round 1 of the 2021 NHL Draft is set for Friday, July 23, with Rounds 2-7 taking place on Saturday, July 24.