Michigan defenseman 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 last month’s draft, according to multiple reports.
In doing so, Power will become the first No. 1 overall pick not to play in his team’s season opener that year since 2007-08, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Power’s decision does not come as a surprise after he said he was leaning toward returning to Michigan in the weeks leading up to the draft. The Buffalo News first reported on Power’s decision Thursday.
The 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, 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 without coronavirus 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 following positive COVID-19 test results.
Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said 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 defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen in separate trades last month. Captain Jack Eichel is also on the trade block in part due 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 in 26 games. He was selected to represent eventual champion Canada at the world championships in Latvia in May and June. His 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 center Matthew Beniers went No. 2 to the expansion Seattle Kraken, defenseman Luke Hughes — who is committed to play for the Wolverines this year — was chosen fourth overall by the New Jersey Devils, and forward Kent Johnson was selected fifth by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.