Owen Power will return to the University of Michigan for his sophomore season.
The 18-year-old defenseman, who announced his decision via Instagram on Friday, was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He is the third player to be selected No. 1 directly from the NCAA and the first from Michigan.
Power had said he was leaning toward playing at Michigan again this season. The last player chosen No. 1 to not play in the NHL the following season was Erik Johnson. The defenseman, selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Draft, opted to enroll at the University of Minnesota before making his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season.
“I think I can step in and play,” Power said during the 2021 draft. “I don’t think the decision will be whether or not I’m ready to play, it’s what is better for my development at the end of the day. I don’t think there’s a bad option, and it’s something we have to figure out.”
Forwards Matty Beniers, selected No. 2 in the 2021 draft by the Seattle Kraken, and Kent Johnson, selected No. 5 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, are also returning to play at Michigan this season, it was announced Friday. Each is a sophomore. Two incoming Michigan freshmen, defenseman Luke Hughes (No. 4, New Jersey Devils) and forward Mackie Samoskevich (No. 24, Florida Panthers), were also selected in the first round of the 2021 draft.
Power scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games last season and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and Second Team All-Big Ten. Michigan earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament but was unable to play because of COVID-19 protocol.
“I know we’re talking about the No. 1 overall pick and a player that is clearly capable of stepping right into the NHL, but you have to look at the long game even with a player at this level and say, ‘What is best for him, how does he continue to get better?'” Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said. “For me, it’s great to have someone step right in and they’re playing, but [I] really want to make sure these guys are going to be at their peak, however many years that takes.”
Power helped Canada win the 2021 IIHF World Championship, when he had three assists in 10 games while averaging 20:07 of ice time. In the 3-2 overtime win against Finland in the championship game, he played 24:17, including a Canada-high 10:31 in the third period.
“[Power] is going to be a superstar hockey player,” said Canada coach Gerard Gallant, now coach of the New York Rangers. “We all know he’s got the talent and skill, but to see him do what he did at this level of hockey, as an 18-year-old … he’s going to be outstanding.”