Owen Power‘s decision to return to the University of Michigan prior to being selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NHL Draft was fully supported by Sabres management.
Power announced Friday that he would play a second season at Michigan. During the defenseman’s pre-draft meeting with Buffalo, which will be part of an upcoming episode of “Buffalo Sabres: Embedded,” he told management his reasons for wanting to play another season of NCAA hockey.
“Going back another year, I can get a lot of development, being able to dominate games at the college level,” Power said. “And then how good the team’s going to be next year, we’re going to have a really good chance at winning a national title. I would say that’s why I have the thought of going back.”
Power was one of three Michigan players chosen among the first five picks of the 2021 draft, along with forwards Matty Beniers (No. 2, Seattle Kraken) and Kent Johnson (No. 5, Columbus Blue Jackets). Beniers and Johnson also will return to Michigan, where they will be joined by two incoming freshmen selected in the first round of the 2021 draft: defenseman Luke Hughes (No. 4, New Jersey Devils) and forward Mackie Samoskevich (No. 24, Florida Panthers).
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said the maturity Power showed in his interview and his on-ice play make his NHL debut worth waiting for.
“When you’re looking at an 18-, 19-year-old kid that’s definitely capable of stepping in and playing in the NHL right now but to have perspective to say, ‘Hey, I think this would help me in the long run, I know I can go experience this at Michigan,’ he wants to win a national championship, wants to play on the Canadian World Junior team, all these things that are great experiences,” Adams said. “It’s not a rush to the NHL, so for me it just showed a little bit of a glimpse inside his mind, which I don’t think many kids have that perspective at that age.”
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 play at the University of Minnesota before making his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season.
Power scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games at Michigan last season. He also helped Canada win the 2021 IIHF World Championship when he had three assists and averaged 20:07 of ice time in 10 games, including 24:17 in Canada’s 3-2 overtime win against Finland in the title game.
“[Power] is going to be a superstar hockey player,” said New York Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, who coached Canada at the Worlds. “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 obviously going to be drafted early in the first round. He’s going to be outstanding.”