The Buffalo Sabres selected University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power with the first pick in the NHL Draft on Friday night.
Power, 18, was the No. 1 ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. His selection marks just the fourth time in NHL history that an NCAA player has gone first overall, joining forward Joe Murphy (1986, Detroit Red Wings), goalie Rick DiPietro (2000, New York Islanders) and defenseman Erik Johnson (2006, St. Louis Blues).
The 6-foot-6 defenseman is the second blueliner the Sabres have taken first overall in the last four drafts, joining 2018 No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin. Power is just the third defenseman to be drafted first overall since 2007.
Power played 26 games for Michigan as a freshman last season, tallying 16 points. A native of Mississauga, Ontario, he appeared in 10 games for Team Canada at the IIHF world championships, playing alongside NHL players. His mobility and size have earned him comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning star Victor Hedman.
“He’s coachable. He always wants more information. He never ever thinks he’s above anything. He just wants more and more and more so he can study and become better, and become great,” said Ryan Hardy, who was the general manager of the USHL Chicago Steel when Power played for them. “When you have that mindset with that frame? This is the Owen Power draft. I don’t think a lot of people know how good he is.”
When Power might show up to play for the Sabres hasn’t been determined yet. The defenseman said that, ideally, he’d like to return to Michigan for at least a year after his first season there was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s one of the big parts of why I want to go back to school. To experience the true college experience at Michigan, especially at Yost [arena] with the fans there and everything. To go to classes and not do everything online. To be able to do stuff besides go to the rink and then go home,” he said.
Power’s selection was the start of what turned into a historic night for Michigan hockey. The expansion Seattle Kraken followed by choosing Wolverines center Matthew Beniers at No. 2. It marked the first time since 1969 that college teammates went with the first two selections.
Three picks later, Michigan became college hockey’s first program to have three teammates go in the first round after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Wolverines winger Kent Johnson fifth.
“Extremely excited for Owen, Matty and their families. It’s already a great night for Michigan Hockey. Go Blue,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson texted to The Associated Press after the Kraken made their selection.
That’s not all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenseman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.
Ontario junior center Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by the Anahiem Ducks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.