The COVID-19 pandemic deprived top NHL Draft prospect Owen Power of the full college experience as a freshman at Michigan.
Power, 18, played in empty rinks, meaning he never felt the rush of playing in front of 5,800 raucous fans at Yost Ice Arena, one of college hockey’s most historic venues. The defenseman had to take online classes, so he spent most of his time at Yost or home.
After Michigan compiled a 15-10-1 record and earned a No. 2 seed, COVID-19 spread throughout the team, and the Wolverines were removed from the NCAA Tournament. So Power lost his chance to compete for a national title.
Right now, Power, who could be selected first overall by the Buffalo Sabres on July 23, said he’s “leaning toward” returning to Ann Arbor before turning pro after his sophomore season. Can you blame him?
“That’s probably one of the big parts of why I want to go back to school, to just be able to experience the true college experience, especially at Michigan with Yost and the fans there, playing in front of them I think would be pretty special,” Power said on a video call Tuesday. “Just actually going to class and not do it online. Just being able to do stuff other than go to the rink and home I think would be something that I would like to do.”
Of course, Power, who would also like to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championship next year, understands he must talk to whichever NHL team drafts him.
“It’ll be kind of something that I’ll look into more once I get drafted,” he said of his plans for the 2021-22 season.
While there’s no consensus No. 1 overall pick this year, the 6-foot-5, 214-pound Power might be too talented for the Sabres to pass up. The Mississauga, Ontario, native said he plans to meet with them Thursday.
“I’m a two-way defenseman that can play in all situations and log a lot of minutes,” said Power, who’s ranked first among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking. “I think any team in the NHL would want someone like that.”
Power has performed like an NHL-ready prospect. After compiling three goals, 16 points and a plus-18 rating in 26 games for Michigan, he logged big minutes as the World Championship progressed, helping Canada roar back to win the gold medal.
“I can definitely sing his praises all day,” Michigan winger Kent Johnson, another draft prospect, said of Power. “Right when I got to Michigan I could tell how special he was, and it’s really fun to be able to train with that guy every day.
“And, yeah, (World Championship), it wasn’t too surprising to me to see what he did. I remember watching the first period of the game and being like, ‘Awe, they’ve got to get this guy out more.’ Seeing how good he did there, it was awesome to see.”
Playing 10 games against men – Power averaged about 25 minutes of ice time over the final three games – helped him learn more about his development.
“The World Championships was good for me to kind of me to see where I was at when playing with pros or playing against pros,” he said. “So I think it gave me a bit of a better idea of how ready I was to play pro hockey.”
Not surprisingly, Power said he likes to watch 6-foot-6 Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Victor Hedman, arguably the NHL’s best defenseman.
“We’ve just got similar attributes in with our size and our skating,” Power said. “I think just how good he is defensively in closing gaps and killing plays is something I really watch and try to put in my game. And then obviously, he’s really good offensively and on the power play.”