BUFFALO – On Friday night, 60 family members and friends gathered in the backyard at Owen Power’s aunt’s house in Burlington, Ontario, to celebrate and support the 18-year-old.
Since the Sabres won the draft lottery seven weeks ago, it was assumed they would select Power first overall at Friday’s NHL Draft.
Still, Power, a Michigan defenseman, said he did not know the Sabres would take him until general manager Kevyn Adams announced the pick from KeyBank Center.
“I didn’t know until they called my name,” Power said on a Zoom call. “I was kind of hoping.”
When TV cameras cut from Adams to Power’s draft party, everyone gathered behind him was celebrating wildly as he put on a Sabres hat and No. 21 blue jersey.
“It was awesome just being able to experience this with them,” Power said.
In the 6-foot-6, 213-pound Power, the Sabres possess a youngster who could potentially change the franchise. He ranked first on NHL Central Scouting’s final list of 2021 North American skaters and has drawn comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning star Victor Hedman, perhaps the NHL’s best defensemen.
“Owen was extremely impressive,” Adams said. “The way he handles himself on the ice in all parts of his game. With the puck, his poise. The defensive reads he makes. The great stick. His hockey IQ. I love his length. I love his skating. He’s just an all around good player that we really think is going to continue to get better and better.”
But the Sabres might have to wait a year for Power, who indicated again Friday he is leaning toward returning for his sophomore season.
“I haven’t talked to anyone from the Buffalo organization about it yet,” he said. “I think that’s something we’ll have to worry about later. … I’m trying to enjoy it with my family and friends and kind of not worry about it.”
While could play another NCAA season, Power said he believes he’s ready to play in the NHL.
“I don’t think the decision will be whether or not I’m ready to play,” he said. It’s whether or not what’s better for my development at the end of the day. So I don’t think there’s really a bad option.”
Clearly, Power feels comfortable joining the Sabres organization. He grew up in Mississauga, Ontario, and would often come to Buffalo and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“The team, they’ve got a lot of young prospects and I think a promising future,” Power said. “I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Power said he recently “had a really good meeting” with Adams.
“I though the meeting went really well,” he said. “I felt real comfortable with them.”
In Power and Rasmus Dahlin, who has played three NHL seasons, the Sabres could have two cornerstone defensemen.
“He’s a really talented player and he’s so young so he’s got so much room to grow still,” Power said of Dahlin. “So I think he’s gonna be a pretty special player. He already is a special player. I think he’s just gonna keep getting better.”
Later in the first round, the Sabres drafted Swedish winger Isak Rosen 14th with the pick they acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in the Rasmus Ristolainen trade.
The 5-foot-11, 156-pound Rosen ranked eighth on NHL Central Scouting’s final list of 2021 European skaters.
Rosen, 18, spent the 2020-21 season with Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League and their junior team, registering zero goals and one assist in 22 games with the big club and seven goals and 12 points in 12 contests in junior.
“Maybe I’m not the biggest guy, but I think I play very hard and use my feet very much,” Rosen said. “I think I’m a very good skater. … My game is around my skating.”
Rosen enjoyed a breakout performance for Team Sweden earlier this year the World Under-18 Junior Championship, scoring seven goals and nine points in seven games.
He said competing against men in the SHL helped prepare him for the tournament.
“I think I got very good practice with the men and I learned much from being around the men all the time and see how they work and how the games were and get the feeling about the SHL,” he said.
Power and Michigan center Matthew Beniers, who was taken second by the expansion Seattle Kraken, are the first teammates to be drafted one and two since the Montreal Canadiens selected Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif from the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1969, according to Sportsnet.
Friday was the fourth time in franchise history the Sabres picked first overall. Before Power, they drafted centers Gilbert Perreault (1970) and Pierre Turgeon (1987) and Dahlin (2018).