Michigan defenceman Owen Power has elected to return to school for his sophomore season rather than make the jump to the NHL after being selected with the No. 1 pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the draft last month.
A person with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed Power’s decision to The Associated Press on Thursday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the player’s decision has not yet been made public. The Buffalo News first reported the news earlier in the day.
Power’s decision does not come as a surprise after saying he was leaning toward returning to Michigan in the weeks leading up to the draft.
The 18-year-old from Mississauga cited numerous reasons for playing one more season at Ann Arbor, including wanting more time to develop and having the opportunity to enjoy a normal college year on campus minus COVID-19 restrictions. Power was also motivated by the chance to compete for a Frozen Four title after Michigan’s season ended abruptly when the No. 2-seeded Wolverines were removed from the NCAA Tournament after positive COVID-19 test results.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams responded by saying the team was on board should Power return to school for an additional year of development.
“This is a tough league. So I think the one mistake we don’t want to make is putting someone in position that they’re just treading water,” Adams said. “We want them to be ready to play.”
The Sabres are in the midst of major offseason overhaul and placing their focus on building through youth after dealing forward Sam Reinhart and defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen in separate trades last month. Captain Jack Eichel is also on the trade block in part owing to a widening rift with the team over whether to have surgery to repair a neck injury that sidelined him for the final two months of the season.
Power is listed at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds and was a Big Ten all-rookie team selection after scoring three goals and adding 13 assists for 16 points in 26 games. Power was then selected to represent eventual champion Canada at the world championships in Latvia in May and June. Power’s role increased through the tournament, and he finished with three assists in 10 games.
Power became the third NCAA player selected first in the NHL draft.
The Wolverines return a potentially stacked team after having four of the first five players selected in the NHL draft.
Michigan centre Matthew Beniers went No. 2 to the expansion Seattle Kraken, forward Kent Johnson was selected fifth by Columbus, and defenceman Luke Hughes – who is committed to play for the Wolverines this year – was chosen fourth overall by the New Jersey Devils.