Expectations for Sabres’ Rookie Owen Power

Owen Power looks slated to begin his rookie season with the Buffalo Sabres when their 2022-23 campaign starts on Oct. 13 vs. the Ottawa Senators. The first selection of the 2021 NHL Draft impressed during his brief introduction at the end of last season and everyone is eager to see what will come next.

As the start of another new season approaches, let’s ask the question that every Sabres fan has been asking themselves – what can realistically be expected from Power this season?

Powering Up The Sabres

Though it gets thrown around so often with young players nowadays that it’s become trite, Power appears to be the whole package. Standing 6-foot-6, the hulking defenseman’s combination of power, speed and skill made him a sensation as he caught the eye of scouts across the NHL during his freshman season with the NCAA’s Michigan Wolverines. He quickly drew comparisons to other big-bodied blueliners like Brent Burns and Dustin Byfuglien and soon became the consensus first overall pick for the 2021 NHL Draft.

The Sabres, meanwhile, endured a 2020-21 season that can be politely described as disgraceful. The team finished last in the league for the second time in four seasons and again received the top privilege of the draft. There wasn’t much doubt over whom they would take as Power became just the third player selected first overall by the Sabres (including teammate Rasmus Dahlin).

Owen Power, Michigan Wolverines
Power’s performance with the Wolverines made him the talk of college hockey (Michigan Photography).

The Sabres have long struggled to incorporate defensemen into their offense, so adding him to the team’s talented pool in that department was a no-brainer. His skating ability is remarkable given his towering stature and that, coupled with his shooting and playmaking ability, gives him the potential to be an elite threat alongside Dahlin.

Related: Predicting the Sabres’ Defense Pairs for the 2022-23 Season

The Sabres played it smart with “Power Ranger” and didn’t rush him to the professional ranks too quickly, allowing him to return to Michigan for his sophomore year. The decision paid immense dividends as Power scored at a torrid pace and finished with 32 points in 33 games. He was shockingly not named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player, but it didn’t matter. The Mississauga, Ontario native proved he was the real deal as his efforts helped propel the Wolverines to the Frozen Four, where they were defeated by eventual champion University of Denver in the semi-final.

Power Is Ready for Next Step After Debut Run

After Michigan’s elimination, the Sabres decided the time was right and Power joined the team for the remainder of the 2021-22 season. Despite being just 19 years old, he looked solid in eight appearances. Playing alongside the reserved Henri Jokiharju allowed him to showcase his strong two-way ability, as he posted a plus-3 rating alongside his first two career NHL goals, the latter coming in the team’s home finale that helped end the season on a high note.

Since the call-up burned the first of the three years on the entry-level deal he signed in April, there was little doubt that Power would become a full-time member of the Sabres. Even though it is quite possible that he could benefit from time in the minor leagues, the hype is there for the NCAA product and fans will be chomping at the bit to see how he follows that 2021-22 performance this season.

However, the Sabres must also be careful to not put him into too big of a role too quickly. As talented as Power is, his defensive abilities could use improvement and since he’s bypassing the minors, he will have to learn as he goes. Luckily for the Sabres, they have a deep defensive corps that will take the pressure off of the youngster, as the likes of Mattias Samuelsson and Casey Fitzgerald provided big boosts to the team last season. Newcomer Ilya Lyubushkin should help in that regard as well. If given the time and space to grow properly, Power should have no issue growing into the star he has the potential to become.

Is It Morphin’ Time for the Sabres?

As one could easily assume, Power, who turns 20 in November, is already garnering Calder Trophy buzz this year as he’s been named a preseason front runner. It’s easy to understand why, however, as he has the tools for all situations. His skating and offensive abilities already give him the look of a power play quarterback, while his size and reach could give him a major advantage when killing penalties.

Though young defensemen don’t always stand the best odds of winning Rookie of the Year honors, Moritz Seider of the Detroit Red Wings winning last year (also in his age 20 season) makes Power’s chances better than they may seem. But, as is so often the case, it will largely hinge upon the performance of the team as a whole and how many opportunities the Sabres afford him.

The Sabres will have many intriguing stories to follow this season but the performance of their prized first overall selection may be at the top of the list. As they begin a season of high hopes, Power will take center stage.

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