Owen Power’s Ascent as the Best Prospect in Hockey

Mississauga Reps, GTHL

Going back to the 2017-18 season, Power was a standout defenseman for the Mississauga Reps in the GTHL Minor Midget circuit. He was without a doubt a top-5 talent for the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, bringing a combination of size, mobility and consistency not so different from the Owen Power we know today. However, a commitment to the University of Michigan tumbled his draft stock and the Flint Firebirds took a flyer on Power with the 22nd overall selection.

Back then, I was highly invested in the Minor Midget class across Canada, so I watched Power play a couple times that year. I remember him catching my eye. Being 6’4″ at the time with above average mobility and a November birthday that placed him as one of the younger players in the class, he was an elite package.

Although he was good, Power was never thought of as a future number one selection. Other first overall selections like Alexis Lafrenière, Jack Hughes, and Connor McDavid were already tagged as such in their midget hockey days. Even the presumptive first overall picks in 2022 and 2023, Shane Wright and Connor Bedard, have been hyped as future first overall selections since midget; Owen Power, not so much.

Owen Power playing for the Mississauga Reps during the 2017-18 season

Chicago Steel, USHL

Instead of playing in the Ontario Hockey League like most Ontario players do, Owen Power took the unusual route and headed for the Chicago Steel of the USHL. By playing in the USHL instead of the OHL, Power was able to maintain his NCAA eligibility.

Power’s rookie season with the Chicago Steel in 2018-19 served as valuable learning experience for the young defenseman. Despite relatively high expectations, he failed to impress scouts. He wasn’t bad, he was simply a raw defenseman adapting to a tough junior hockey league.

Power finished that first season with 25 points in 58 games, a respectable number for any defenseman’s D-2 season, but not one that compares to other first overall selections. At this time, Power was getting little-to-no attention as a top prospect for 2021.

In August of 2019, Power was cut from Canada’s Hlinka team. Canada had good depth in the 2002 age group and decided to go a different direction for their defense group. This would serve as added fuel to the fire for Power in his pursuit of becoming a top NHL prospect.

The most pivotal point in Owen Power’s ascent was the 2019-20 season, his second with the Chicago Steel. After a few games, it was obvious Power had returned to the Steel a much improved player. With a new approach to the game and added skills, he quickly became the team’s top defenseman. As the season wore on, he became more recognized as a name around the scouting world and started garnering some discussion as a top-5 pick in 2021.

Chicago’s General Manager at the time, Ryan Hardy, was frequently on Twitter singing the praises of Owen Power. These tweets influenced me to do more research into Power’s game in order to investigate whether the praise given by Hardy was valid or not. I watched some game tape from the 2019-20 season and was thoroughly impressed with the young defenseman, validating what his former General Manager was saying. Power finished that season with 40 points in 45 games, marking a significant uptick in production from his previous season.

After the 2019-20 season that ended abruptly due to COVID, the meteoric rise of Jake Sanderson revealed all the qualities scouts look for in defensemen. Sanderson ended up being selected 5th overall in 2020. As a stylistically similar player, he was the ultimate comparable for Owen Power. Except Power was six months younger, four inches taller, and a better skater. If Jake Sanderson went 5th overall in what was considered a strong draft, where would that place Power for the 2021 draft given it was starting to earn a reputation as a weaker draft? The following tweet shows my thought process at the time.

Scouting Report: Owen Power - Smaht Scouting
Owen Power playing for the Chicago Steel of the USHL

University of Michigan, NCAA (Freshman)

After dominating the USHL in his second season, Power headed off as a 17 year-old to join the University of Michigan Wolverines as a part of a recruiting class that included Kent Johnson, Matthew Beniers, Thomas Bordeleau, and Brendan Brisson. That’s a lot of skill coming into one program in a single year, but Power may have been the most anticipated of all.

As the season started, Power was one of many players receiving some consideration for first overall. He started off slow and had a couple rough games in the beginning. Some pundits questioned if he was as good as initially thought. However, the struggle would not last long; Power became Michigan’s top defenseman after about a month of warming up the pace of play in the NCAA

As November rolled around, the thought of Power being on Canada’s World Junior Roster loomed. He would be their youngest defenseman there, earning consideration with his strong play for Michigan. However, due to COVID-19 reasons, Michigan opted not to release Power for the tournament. Sam (@DraftLook on Twitter) wrote an awesome article about what Power could have brought to the team last year:

What would Owen Power have brought to Team Canada’s blueline?

By the end of the NCAA season, Power was the consensus #1 prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft. He would finish the season with 3 goals and 13 assists, totaling 16 points across 26 games.

Owen Power playing for the Michigan Wolverines

Team Canada, World Championships

Owen Power received a special opportunity to prove himself ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft when Roberto Luongo named him to Canada’s roster for the 2021 IIHF World Championships. Alongside NHLers Troy Stecher, Sean Walker, Colin Miller, Mario Ferraro, Nicolas Beaudin, WHLer Braden Schneider, and fellow NCAAer Jacob Bernard-Docker, Power was the youngest defenseman on a young defensive corps for Team Canada. In fact, he became the youngest player to ever suit up for Team Canada at the World Championships.

Owen Power: 2021 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Top Defender in the Draft, or  Top Pick? Or Neither? - All About The Jersey
Owen Power with Team Canada at the World Championships in May 2021

When he was first named to the roster, it was expected he would play in a bottom pairing role with around ten minutes of ice time per game and little opportunity to make an impact. If he could just keep his head above water in this tournament, it would be a success. Yes, you might have expected more for a projected number one overall selection. But remember, at the time Power was considered the number one prospect, but he wasn’t a true number one prospect like we had seen in previous years. In essence, it was a weak draft and Power simply happened to be the best of the crop.

However, the World Championships would go very differently for Power. He was not interested in keeping his head above water; he had his sights set on being an impact defenseman in this tournament. He kicked off the tournament against Latvia with 7:58 of ice time. Then, he played 14:32 against the Americans before logging 16:15 against the Germans. By the end of the tournament, with Canada gaining momentum after a disastrous start, Power was playing an average of 24:32 per game in matches against Finland, Russia, United States, and the gold medal game against Finland.

It’s remarkable how quickly he earned top ice time on a team full of NHLers. He was also a key contributor in the team’s gold medal win, providing team Canada with reliable play at both ends of the ice. All at the ripe age of eighteen years old. Comments started flooding in on Twitter about Power, including lots of chatter about how he may have just been Canada’s top defenseman at the tournament. If that doesn’t speak volumes about how good Owen Power had become at this point, I don’t know what does.

The 2021 NHL Draft

After an aggressive offseason in 2020 where the Sabres looked to be a potential playoff team, everything went wrong in the 56-game, shortened season. Captain Jack Eichel suffered a major injury, new addition Taylor Hall failed to make any impact, while other players failed to improve on their previous campaigns. For their efforts in the disastrous season, the Sabres were awarded high lottery stakes. They claimed victory at the lottery for the second time in just four seasons.

After being the consensus, but not unanimous #1 for most of the season, Power entered the draft as Buffalo’s undisputed selection after his performance at the World Championships. Some critics argued the 2021 draft lacked a true first overall caliber prospect, but that changed for many scouts after Power’s World Championships performance. The Sabres made no mistake at the podium and took him, making Power the third defenseman taken #1 overall since 2006, following Aaron Ekblad in 2014 and new teammate Rasmus Dahlin in 2018.

Interestingly, Owen Power became the first #1 pick since Erik Johnson to not play in the NHL the following season. It wasn’t because he couldn’t; he made a calculated decision about what would prove better for his long-term development as a player and decided to return to the University of Michigan for a sophomore season.

University of Michigan, NCAA (Sophomore)

Buffalo drafted Owen Power with the hope he would become a top-pairing, two-way defenseman for years to come. Obviously, Power is yet to deliver on that, but the expectations of what he will become are rising with each passing week as he continues to propel his game to new heights.

Through 16 games with Michigan, Owen Power has been the best player in college hockey. It’s not just his 23 points that are impressive, it’s the all-around ability that lets him dominate games. I’ve watched a few games and Power has been nothing short of elite, forcing the pace of play and helping his team win every way he can. In the tweet below, Scott Wheeler sums up Owen Power’s season so far.

He’s the tallest player on the ice, using his size effectively to shield the puck and to be an intimidating force defensively. He activates offensively on frequent occasion and can work his way around defenders with ease before making a pass to an open teammate or firing a shot on net. If you get the chance to watch Michigan this year (it is highly recommended) you will see Power control the game with his abilities.

The 2022 World Juniors

How often does the most recent #1 overall pick play in the World Juniors the following season? Power will become the first player to do so since Nail Yakupov in 2013. As you can imagine, the expectations are high. Justifiably so, perhaps. There was chatter of Owen Power being Canada’s best defenseman at the World Championships on a defensive group that included five NHL players. Consider that and now ask yourself, “how good is this guy going to be against 17/18/19 year-olds?”.

Owen Power will be on Canada’s top pairing. With who? It depends which direction Canada wants to go. The prospective roster looks very deep on the left side and razor thin on the right side. Surprisingly, Canada has left Brandt Clarke off the camp roster, a player who would have been a good fit alongside Power. With no Clarke at camp, Power’s most likely defensive partner is a left-handed player moving to the right side. The players who fit this description include returnee Kaiden Guhle and first-timers Lukas Cormier, Ryan O’Rourke, and Donovan Sebrango.

Whoever Power is playing with, he will find a way to succeed at the World Juniors. He is considered a favourite to take home MVP honours in this tournament, although it ultimately depends on how Canada decides to utilize him. As the reigning #1 overall selection, Power has a strong claim as the top player entering this tournament. Needless to say, it is going to be an absolute treat to watch him in this tournament.

The Future

Although he was ranked #4 on my list of top prospects two months ago (Ranking the top 50 prospects ahead of the 2021-22 NHL season), I am confident that Owen Power is now #1. Caufield and Zegras were ahead, but both players are now in the NHL. Quinton Byfield was ranked #1, but a pre-season injury has kept him out of action all season. Power has shown enough through 16 games to warrant an upward movement to number one.

So, there it is Buffalo fans, Owen Power is the top prospect in hockey. And with that comes lofty expectations. Power will make his NHL debut either at the end of the season or the beginning of next. When he does, he will be an instant impact player for the Sabres.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @BBMHockey

Leave a Reply