BUFFALO – Having represented Team USA at the World Junior Championship 28 years ago, general manager Kevyn Adams understands what a special experience the tournament can be for a youngster like Sabres prospect Owen Power.
A year ago, Michigan refused to release Power to participate in Team Canada’s selection camp. If he made the squad, he would’ve been away from school about 50 days.
That was too long for the university.
So this year’s tournament will be extra special for the 6-foot-6 Power, who in Sunday’s opener in Edmonton recorded the first hat trick in tournament history by a Canadian defenseman.
“I know that it really meant a lot to him to play in the World Juniors,” Adams said of the first overall pick.
Adams, of course, watched Power’s exploits in Canada’s 5-3 win over the Czech Republic. Besides the goals – he scored twice during a five-on-three power play – Adams loved other aspects of Power’s game.
“Owen I thought last night showed what his makeup is which is poise and confidence and the ability to just calm things down and make the right play,” Adams said following Monday’s practice inside KeyBank Center. “I’m sure it’s a pretty exciting time for him being the first Canadian World Junior player to get a hat trick as a defenseman.”
Adams said the tournament provides a terrific opportunity to scout prospects within their peer group.
“Often when we’re scouting, whether it’s a draft-eligible player or one of our prospects, you’re watching them play in Swedish Elite League against 30-year-olds,” he said. “So you’re getting a different gauge when you watch the World Juniors. So I love it and a lot of our staff are either there or headed there.”
Sabres winger Kyle Okposo had never watched Power, a sophomore with the Wolverines, play before Sunday’s game.
“He looked great,” Okposo said. “That was my first time ever seeing him play and (he was) just long and rangy and smart. What impressed me the most was his first pass coming out of his end. Very deceptive but wasn’t trying to make things complicated.
“(He) makes a simple play, makes a smart play, makes a mature play and that’s something that you don’t always see in 18, 19-year-old kids.”
The NHL has pulled out of the upcoming Winter Olympics, so countries will be filling their rosters with talent from top pro leagues and possibly elite college players. Power, 19, will likely receive strong consideration from Canada.
Adams said he would be a part of any conversations about Power potentially going to the Beijing Games.
“There’s so much to think about when it comes to the development of a hockey player,” he said. “And then there’s also, now you throw COVID on top of it and all the travel and where do players get disrupted if that was the case. I think there’s a lot of unknowns right now with the Olympics and how that’s all going to shake out. …
“Anytime as a player you’re being talked about in getting experience like that I think it could be an amazing thing for you in your career.”