Ann Arbor, Mich. — Owen Power stood in a sea of corny fans cheering and cheering on Michigan’s football team in victory over Washington this fall.
Powers is 6-foot-5 and has some notoriety as the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Draft, but he got along with his fellow students among 108,345 fans under lights on a power night at the Big House.
Exactly what the 18-year-old Canadian wanted.
Power went on to make millions this season with the Buffalo Sabers, who picked defenseman No. 1 overall in July. He chose to stay in school and return for his sophomore season with the Wolverines, which was No. 3 in the preseason.
“I thought there was no need to rush it,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press.
The Mississauga, Ontario, native is the first player to be drafted No. 1 overall who does not go directly to the NHL since St. Louis picked Eric Johnson in 2006 and went on to play in Minnesota for one season. He is only the fourth NCAA player to be drafted No. 1 overall, joining Michigan State’s Joe Murphy (1986), Boston University’s Rick DiPietro (2000) and Johnson.
The Powers spent last year roaming a largely empty and dilapidated campus in Ann Arbor and played their new season without fans in the stands due to COVID-19 restrictions. Without a doubt, the pandemic played a part in Power’s decision to stay.
Michigan coach Mel Pearson said, “He wants a normal year. He came to college for one reason, the University of Michigan for a reason: to go to class, be a college student, hang out with the kids, football on Saturdays.” To go to the game and enjoy that experience.”
Most of the 2021 NHL draft class chose to develop another season before jumping into the world’s top hockey league, and many of them are Power’s teammates. Five of the top 10 draft choices playing college hockey, including Tyler Boucher (Ottawa, No. 10 pick), who committed to play at Boston University, matched the total of the last four drafts after he was selected.
Dallas Stars general manager Jim Neill, who turned out to be a scout and director of player development, believes the pandemic-shortened season last year played a role in this discrepancy of several top picks going back to school Was.
“I think the disruption of the season last year probably comes into play,” Neil said. “If they play a full season, get 50 games and go to a national championship, play more hockey, develop more, maybe a different story.”
Michigan had to withdraw from the NCAA Tournament due to the virus outbreak, but this season the Wolverines are loaded: four of the top five in the NHL Draft and five of the top 24 to take a shot at winning this season with Mecca and Wearing blue. All.
“It’s safe to say he turned down a significant amount of money and investment,” said Michigan associate head coach Bill Mukalt, who played for five seasons in the NHL after winning two national titles with the Wolverines. Looks like they can get better and improve here, and we feel the same way.”
Michigan has seven first-round picks — the most in NCAA history — and 13 players on the roster have been called into the NHL Draft.
Jack Hughes, entering his third season with the Devils, said, “Everybody expects Michigan to win the national championship. It’s almost like a Duke basketball or Kansas basketball-type thing, with the top five kids out there.” Four have been drafted. It’s unheard of, and I don’t know if it will ever happen again.”
During a recent practice, Power was on a power play with Banears, Hughes, Johnson and 2020 first-round pick Brendan Bryson. They made tape-to-tape passes as if they had played together over the years and impressed the goaltender with shots.
“When we were having a little scuffle, I was like, ‘Wow, this is really fun to play hockey,'” Johnson said.
The talented Wolverines aren’t the only ones choosing college over pro hockey this season.
Three other picks from this year’s first round — Harvard’s Matthew Coronato, Minnesota’s Chaz Lucius and Wisconsin’s Corson Seulman — also opted to stay in college for at least one more season. Jake Sanderson, drafted No. 5 overall by Ottawa in 2020, is back in North Dakota for his second season.
Sanderson and Power are the latest high-ranking defenders in the draft to stay at the college.
Colorado took on black Capricorn No. 4 in 2017 and he spent two years at UMass. Vancouver picked Jack and Luke’s brother, Quinn Hughes, as No. 7 overall in 2018, and he returned to Michigan for another season. Columbus took Zach Verensky No. 8 in 2015 and that too came back to play another year for the Wolverines.
“In my years of college hockey, I’ve never seen a player feel sorry for taking another year,” said Seth Appert, coach of the Sabers’ AHL team. It’s not just as a hockey player.
“Once you get to this level, it’s your job, you’re a professional. And if you’re a high choice, you’re going to have cameras in front of you and more fans within your circle and within the organization. And there is pressure from both the media to perform.”
AP Hockey writer Stephen Whynow contributed to this report. Buffalo, NY. Waro reported from
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