Shortly after the Buffalo Sabres selected top defensive prospect Owen Power as the No. 1 pick at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, general manager Kevyn Adams made an introductory FaceTime call to the Mississauga, Ontario native. “Who do you have behind you there?” Adams asked. A quick pan showed not one or two, but an entire crowd of family members who roared their support through the iPhone speaker.
“Mississauga is not that far away from Buffalo,” Adams said. “We expect to see a lot of Power jersey’s in the stands.” You can watch the interaction below as it makes up a part of the trailer for “Sabres: Embedded,” a new series debuting Thursday on the team’s YouTube channel.
As most Sabres fans now know, they will have to wait for at least one more year to see a Power jersey on the ice. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Power recently spoke to ncaa.com’s Evan Marinofsky to clarify why he decided to return to school this fall.
Sabres Will Benefit from More Development from Power
Among the reasons he gave, two stuck out: the chance to win a national championship and the opportunity to get the full college hockey experience with crowds. A third he didn’t mention could be the chance to play with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
It’s unclear yet what the situation will be to start the year. COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Michigan, but as of right now, attendance at the school’s football games in The Big House is at full capacity, with masking requirements not mandatory in the seating bowl.
The college hockey environment is like no other amateur league, and Power has all the reasons in the world to be excited about taking part in that. But from a hockey standpoint, the Sabres also stand to benefit from this as their crown jewel prospect gains confidence on a special team. After all, winning always breeds confidence and streamlines a player’s development.
Power told Marinofsky that with another year to develop, he hopes to continue to get better. He also feels last year left him wanting a bit. “I think last year we didn’t get a true experience of playing hockey at Michigan,” he said. “I think that had a little bit to do with it just with COVID and everything that went on with that. I think [also] coming back one more year and trying to win a national championship and just using this extra year as time to make another leap in my development.”
Power Had Been Leaning Towards a Return to NCAA
As had been reported back in June, Power has been leaning towards this decision already. Some followers mistakenly took this as evidence of him not wanting to play with the Sabres, but Power tossed aside those types of worries by saying, “it’d be awesome” to play with the team that is so close to his home in an interview with TSN.
A while after the draft, he actually made up his mind on what he would do this year. “I talked to Buffalo, and I talked with my advisors about it. I don’t know the exact date, but I know it did take a while to kind of finalize that decision,” he told Marinofsky.
He holds some high expectations for what he and his teammates can accomplish in the coming months. “I think for us [it’s] a national championship. That’s the biggest thing and with me, just continue to improve every day and get better.
“You hear all the outside noise and talk about our team, but I think with the guys in the locker room, we do a pretty good job at kind of cancelling out and just focusing on ourselves and worrying about trying to get better as a team and as individuals every day. At the end of the day, hopefully, we’ll be playing for a championship.”
As the Sabres wander through this NHL season with less of an expectation for immediate success and more of an eye towards what is to come in the next year and the year after that; the kind of experience their future No 1. defenseman should get in his sophomore season should prove to be invaluable.
Mike Carter is a freelance writer and contributor for the Buffalo Sabres with The Hockey Writers and NHLTradeRumors.Me He is @mikecarterlives on Twitter. Mike has been writing professionally since 2012, with stints as a reporter in northern British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta. He now calls Salmon Arm, B.C. home.