Prospects roundup: back to school for Owen Power
It’s almost school time, kids.
The little ones will get their cool new backpacks. Teens will be looking to navigate another year of high school with a mix of excitement and nerves. College students will be eager to discover themselves and start their life.
However, only one student in the world can boast of being the number one pick in the NHL Draft. It’s Owen Power as he attends his sophomore year at the University of Michigan in hopes of helping the Wolverines hockey team reach the goal of winning a national championship.
This is the first time since 2006 that a first overall pick has not been played in the NHL right away. At the time, first-choice Erik Johnson chose to attend the University of Minnesota, with the Blues bringing him in the following season after a successful freshman campaign with 24 points in 41 games.
While some in the media and fans have clung to the conspiracy theory story that Power is avoiding the Buffalo Sabers as a whole, this is not the case. The patient approach is perhaps exactly what the young Canadian defenseman needs.
Power was very good, but not really dominant, at the University of Michigan last season thanks to his exceptional skating and an impressive variety of tools in all three zones. His 6’6 ” frame is what immediately appeals to talented evaluators, but it’s his ability to come back up the ice with puck control that makes him special. Power generates – get this – power through its stride, working through the neutral zone with an imposing presence.
Power has a willingness to make high endangered passes in the attacking zone that many defenders avoid for fear of making a mistake. He has a good shot from the blue line but is really at his peak when he enters the point. He plays without fear, which can sometimes lead to mistakes. There have been times when Power has a bit of a disturbing gift or he skates around the corner with no escape plan.
Power’s defensive play largely follows the same theme of tools but incomplete. He has a sense of using his frame and length to defend the race, but can sometimes get caught leaning forward a bit. This can lead to an imbalance that quick and skilled attackers will – and have – taken advantage of.
That said, he’s more than happy to lean over a player along the boards or get in the way of the skater with his mobility. He has also shown his ability to outperform players in corners, but the propensity to know what to do ‘next’ has been the biggest question in his game.
All of this to say that Power has all the tools you would love to see in a top prospect. He just needs to organize his toolbox. He’s an excellent skater. Its passage is clear and clean. There is certainly no lack of size and strength. He defends well, using his size and speed to cut plays quickly. He just needs to bring it all together.
This is precisely why Power, his team and the Buffalo Sabers made the decision to stay in college. Refinement is the key. 18-year-old defensemen rarely have the impact they expected, as defending at the NHL level requires an incredible level of nuance and understanding of the game.
Along with the extra development time at a level he’s shown himself to be good at, Power has the chance to chase the elusive national title after Michigan was forced out of the NCAA tournament before playing a game due to the appearance of COVID in the locker room.
Being able to establish a winning culture for himself will do him a service when he enters the Sabers organization, needing to change their culture.
There are also the contractual advantages for the Sabers which become possible. If Power decided not to sign with the Sabers after the NCAA season, he would also push back his unrestricted free agent rights for a year. That effectively means Power would be in the squad’s control a year older than most of the overall top picks. Depending on how far the Wolverines have traveled this season, he might be running out of time to sign his entry-level deal.
If he signs at the end of the season, one could see a similar situation with Quinn Hughes, another former Wolverine, where he plays a few games towards the end of the season, which could burn a year of his entry contract. range. This allows the team to save on performance bonuses and escalators that they will not have to pay. In a pandemic where most owners are scrambling to save some cash, this could be a win for the club.
We’ve come to expect the top picks overall to enter the NHL and become dominant players. Fans and media alike have been throwing development out the window in search of instant gratification in recent years. When this gratification is not provided, watchers become impatient. Progress is not linear. Patience is the key.
Blessed by recent phenomena such as Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, the NHL has become spoiled. Not all of the overall top picks will be these players. Jack Hughes rebounded with a solid second year after a seemingly shaky rookie year. Alexis Lafrenière had an eventful rookie season last year. Teenage domination is a rarity.
Power made the right decision to go back to school. He will have the opportunity to experience a year of varsity athletics with a little more normalcy, he continues his studies and, in the end, he is not forced to find himself in a situation with the exorbitant expectations that he will have. will surely be placed on him.
He will develop and refine his skills with the Wolverines. He will likely play for Canada at the World Junior Championships during the holidays. He will have the opportunity to win a national championship. In the end, we even got to see it in a few NHL games to end the season.
There’s not much more a player in Power’s position could ask for, so he’s heading back to school with his Buffalo Sabers lunchbox.