Owen Power, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, said he will interview for the first time with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
The Sabres won the NHL Draft Lottery on June 2 and could select the University of Michigan defenseman, who is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. The Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season, won the No. 2 pick.
Reiterating what he told NHL Network on June 11, Power said Tuesday he plans to return to Michigan next season but hasn’t made a final decision.
“I wouldn’t say I’m committed to going back to school; I’m leaning towards it right now, but that’s obviously something I’ll have to talk to with whichever team drafts me,” he said. “I’ll be looking into it more after I get drafted.”
The first round will be held July 23.
Power said if he does return to Michigan, his plan would be to turn professional after the 2021-22 season.
“If I was to go back to school, I think that’s my goal … to play one more year in Michigan and then be ready to play in the NHL,” he said. “That’s what I expect and that’s my goal.”
Power could sign an entry-level contract and play in the NHL next season after his college season is complete.
The last player chosen No. 1 to not play in the NHL the following season was Erik Johnson, selected by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Draft. The defenseman opted to stay at the University of Minnesota and made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season.
Power scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. He helped Canada win the 2021 IIHF World Championship with three assists and 17 shots on goal averaging 20:07 of ice time. He played 24:17 in a 3-2 win against Finland in the championship game, including a Canada-high 10:31 in the third period.
“I’m a two-way defenseman that could play in all situations and log a lot of minutes, so I think any team in the NHL would want someone like that,” Power said.
He said he hasn’t been overwhelmed by the interviewing process. On June 11, he said he had been interviewed by about 10-15 NHL teams.
“I haven’t been too busy where I can’t handle it,” Power said. “It’s been a good balance of just being busy, but not too busy. Teams have asked about my personality, what I like to do when I’m not playing hockey. They want to know about my family, my parents and my siblings, and how my development has gone.”
Michigan forwards Matthew Beniers and Kent Johnson, each a top prospect for the 2021 draft, also hinted toward a return to school in 2021-22. Beniers is No. 6 in Central Scouting’s final ranking, and Johnson is No. 3.
Beniers scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games as a freshman and led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38).
“I’m pretty close, but it takes a lot of work to get [to the NHL] and be impactful,” Beniers said. “You’ve got to be ready mentally and physically. I’m not totally sure when it will happen, but I’m hoping it’s soon because that’ll be pretty cool.”
Johnson scored 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 26 games. He led first-time NHL Draft-eligible NCAA players in assists, points and points per game (1.04).
“I think I’m pretty confident with the way my training is going and it’s a really exciting group at Michigan,” Johnson said. “I think everyone is really excited to go for a national championship next year, but obviously we’ll see how my development goes, but I feel pretty confident that it could be sooner rather than later.”