One of the top prospects in the 2021 NHL draft may not be ready to turn pro just yet.
Speaking to NHL Network on Friday, Michigan defenseman Owen Power said he's leaning towards returning to school in Ann Arbor next year. The 18-year-old Canadian explained he wants the "true experience of playing college hockey" after the pandemic derailed much of the program's activities and ability to host fans last season.
NHL Central Scouting ranks Power as the No. 1 North American skater available this season with his Wolverines teammates Kent Johnson and Matthew Beniers right behind him at No. 3 and No. 6, respectively.
Returning to college would not preclude Power from entering the draft as whichever team selects him would retain draft right rights for 30 days after he leaves school.
That would not violate NCAA or NHL rules so long as Power doesn't sign a contract before returning to college. Considering defensemen generally take NHL teams longer to develop, there's not much downside for Power to return to school unless whichever team selects him was planning on sending him straight to the league.
The top defenseman selected in the 2020 entry draft, Jake Sanderson, was taken No. 5 overall by the Ottawa Senators but decided to play at the University of North Dakota for the 2020-21 season.
In 26 games for Michigan last year, Power recorded three goals and 13 assists with just six penalty minutes. The Mississauga native was named Second-Team All-Big Ten and First-Team All-Freshman Big Ten, but the team was forced to pull out of the NCAA tournament ahead of a regional semifinal with Minnesota Duluth because of COVID-19 protocols. Power most recently played for Team Canada for the IIHF World Championships, earning a gold medal with three assists in 10 games.
His decision shouldn't impact his draft status too much.
The Buffalo Sabres, Seattle Kraken and Anaheim Ducks hold the first three draft picks this year, respectively, with the first round set for July 23 via remote format.