Owen Power, projected No. 1 NHL pick, and other top prospects may stay put

Jun 21, 2019; Vancouver, BC, Canada; Ryan Johnson greets NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after being selected as the number thirty-one overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Several of the top prospects heading into the NHL Draft are weighing their options. This may or may not impact how some teams at the top of the draft make their final decision. Traditionally, players selected in the early first round make the jump into action, but that may not be the case this year.

Owen Power weighing option to stay in college

Owen Power, the 18-year-old projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is set to meet Thursday with the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres have the top pick, and the Michigan defenseman has caught their eye. Still, Power said Tuesday he is strongly considering whether he would sign a contract immediately after the July 23-24 draft.

“I wouldn’t say I’m committed to going back to school. I’m leaning towards it right now, but that’s obviously something I’ll have to talk to with whichever team drafts me,” he said. “I’ll be looking into it more after I get drafted.”

owen power
Owen Power likely to go first overall (University of Michigan)

One of the reasons Power could choose to return to Ann Arbor is for the chance to have the traditional college experience. As a freshman last season, most of his non-hockey life came on a computer.

“I think it would be pretty special. Just actually going to class and not do it online,” he said. “Just being able to do stuff other than go to the rink and home, I think would be something that I would like to do.”

If he does return to the Wolverines, Power said he plans to play professionally after the 2021-22 season.

“If I was to go back to school, I think that’s my goal … to play one more year in Michigan and then be ready to play in the NHL,” he said.

Cole Caufield a template for other college hockey players

The 6-foot-5 Power could follow the lead of Cole Caufield and sign an entry-level contract after the college season.

The Montreal Canadiens selected Caufield with the No. 15 overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft and chose to play at Wisconsin. After the Badgers’ season concluded this spring, he signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Canadiens on March 28, made his NHL debut a month later, and has been key to Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

From Mississauga, Ontario, Power scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games at Michigan in 2020-21 and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team. He was part of Canada’s title-winning team in the 2021 IIHF World Championship.

Other top picks reportedly considering staying put

The Seattle Kraken could be facing a similar situation as the Sabres. Projected number two pick overall, center Matthew Beniers is also considering a return to college.

“I’m definitely leaning towards coming back,” Beniers said. “We’re going to have a really good group, a lot of good players, and we’re going to get a real run at a national title. I definitely want to win a Big Ten championship and kind of do that whole college thing after getting closed down last year because of COVID.”

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Same can be said for the fourth ranked prospect, Luke Hughes who is the younger brother of the Devils, Jack Hughes. Coincidentally, New Jersey currently holds the fourth pick in the draft. Hughes already committed to play for Michigan.

Finally, and maybe not the last prospect to do so, William Eklund is going to stay in Sweden next season. He is projected to be the top drafted prospect out of Europe.

–Field Level Media contributed to this article