The first overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft is set to make his debut on Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs
The Owen Power NHL debut has been long-awaited by the Buffalo Sabres fans since his name was announced by their general manager Kevyn Adams back in July. Now, the 19-year-old is about to make his NHL debut against the team he grew up watching. But what can Buffalo expect from the six-foot-six defenseman? That’s what will be answered here.
What Power did for the Michigan Wolverines
The young Canadian defenseman played the past two seasons for the University of Michigan. He was only 17 when he joined the Wolverines for the first time, but his talent and ability were clear. He belonged there. Power quickly became an important player for Michigan not only defensively but offensively too. He played 26 games, scoring three goals and 13 assists for 16 points.
In addition to a great season, Power was named the to Big Ten All-Rookie team and Second All-Star team. Due to a COVID outbreak, Michigan had to withdraw from the NCAA Frozen Four, but Power’s strong impression was already there.
The World Championship
After ending his first season in college, he was invited to join Team Canada at the Men’s World Championship in May. Power joined the team as an extra, as he was only 18 at the time, but quickly escalated from that to playing top-pair minutes. As had happened prior in Michigan, he quickly became a key player and helped the team win Gold against Finland. Power became a world champion before even getting drafted. Talk about having a good résumé.
Leading up to the draft
Power was cited by all the major NHL outlets as the #1 prospect in his draft class. Buffalo followed the lead. He was already 6’5″ and even though it can be hard for a guy that tall to skate well, it wasn’t for him. His vision of the game was great, his passing skills were amazing and his defensive game was almost perfect. Everything put together formed the perfect candidate for a first overall pick.
On July 23, when Adams announces their first overall pick, his name is cheered across the country. It was go time. But instead of doing what every first overall did in the past 10 years – go straight to the pros – he chose not to. The then 18-year-old chose to stay in Michigan for another year. With Matty Beniers (Seattle Kraken) and Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) returning as well, he felt like Michigan had a real shot. He wasn’t wrong.
The post-draft 2021-22 season
What happened next is history. Power had a terrific 2021-22 season, playing even better than he did before. He had 32 points in 33 games and was playing top-pair minutes every night.
Besides being a star player for Michigan, Power got to represent Team Canada twice on the international level. The first time was at the U20 Men’s World Juniors, where he became the first Canadian defenseman to score a hat trick at the tournament. The WJC ended up being cancelled due to Covid, but history had already been made. Then, he was invited to join the team in the Winter Olympics, leading the team in ice-time averaging 21:38.
Going back to Michigan, the team had been preparing to end the season well and go to the playoffs. They went to the Frozen Four this year but got eliminated by Denver, the current National Champions, in the semi-finals. The next day, Power signed his contract.
Owen Power brings size, physicality and excitement to the young Sabres
Now that you know everything Power did in the past year and a half, let’s move on to what he brings to the table. Owen Power is a big defenseman, with his 6’6″ figure being the tallest on the team. As said before, his height is not a problem for him and he uses it to his advantage. He’s a really good skater and his long strides make him fast, which are good qualities for the Sabres. His hockey IQ is off the charts. And his stick reach helps him do poke checks and battle along the boards without much difficulty.
For a guy his size, it’s expected for him to be a little clumsy and take a lot of penalties. But as far as it’s been shown, Power knows his body and size enough to be careful. He’s not scared to go deep into the offensive zone to look for chances. That usually doesn’t end well but as mentioned, he’s fast. The 19-year-old can get back into position without much struggle.
He’s also a likable kid who’s been welcomed since day one by the entire team. After one morning skate on Sunday and a practice on Monday, everyone is excited to have him. During his media interview after practice, Power expressed his gratitude.
“I think every guy just been so good, especially to me coming in,” the rookie said. “Everyone’s been so welcoming and so nice to me. They’re always trying to include me in everything. I think they’ve done a great job making it easy for me to kind of come in and adjust.”
He’s here and he’s (almost) perfect
All of the above are big reasons why the Sabres are excited to have him. He’ll bring a much needed boost of energy into the roster and will help them for years. He’s not perfect and will need help from his teammates. But he’s as close to perfect as the team can get right now.
Power was paired with Henri Jokiharju during Monday’s practice. Head coach Don Granato expressed that the pair feels right and that’s a good indicator that he’ll keep the pair together for Tuesday night.