The Buffalo Sabres selected Michigan defenseman Owen Power with the No. 1 pick in Friday's NHL entry draft.
Power entered the draft as the consensus top-ranked North American skater, according to NHL Central Scouting. The 6'6", 213-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario, posted 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games for the Wolverines last season and added another three assists in 10 games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2020-21.
Corey Pronman of The Athletic agreed with the NHL's ranking, putting Power in the top slot of his predraft rankings in mid-June:
"Power had a great freshman season as one of the best defensemen in his conference while also one of its youngest, and played a key role for Canada in its gold medal run at the world championships. Power's offensive toolkit won't jump out immediately to you, but a 6'6" defenseman who can skate at the NHL level and move the puck well is a major asset. His skating isn't explosive, but his stride and edgework are excellent, and he can evade pressure very well. Power's offense comes from a great first pass and an ability to find seams in the offensive zone well. ... In a sentence, Power projects as a star all-situations NHL defenseman who won't land on highlight reels but will play tough minutes and drive play."
Power becomes the latest Michigan defenseman selected with a top-10 pick in recent years, following the likes of Quinn Hughes (No. 7, 2018) and Zach Werenski (No. 8, 2015).
He's also the school's first No. 1 overall pick and the 26th alum selected in the first round. Previously, Jack Johnson was Michigan's highest draftee, going No. 3 overall in 2005, but the Carolina Hurricanes picked him before playing in Ann Arbor. Goalie Al Montoya (No. 6, 2004) is the Wolverines product who was selected the highest following his college career.
The selection is a win for college hockey, too, as the NCAA produces its first No. 1 overall pick since the New York Islanders took goalie Rick DiPietro out of Boston University in 2000.
In June, Power said he was leaning toward a return to Michigan after the team's run to the Frozen Four was cut short by a COVID-19 outbreak ahead of the NCAA tournament.
"I think right now I'm probably leaning more toward going back to school," Power told NHL Network (h/t MLive.com's Ryan Zuke). "It's something I'd like to do, trying to get the true experience of playing college hockey. At the end of the day, it obviously depends on what the team wants and what everyone around me thinks is best. I don't think there's really a bad option, but I'd say I'm leaning a bit more toward going back to school right now."
With defensemen typically taking longer to develop into NHL stalwarts, the biggest factor in Power's decision may be whether or not Buffalo decides he's ready to play in the league right now or if his long-term plan includes a trip to the minor leagues.