Fearless approach helped top prospect Power battle Tarasenko, earn big role at Worlds
Owen Power is confident he can make a smooth transition to the National Hockey League.
"I think if I was to sign and play in the NHL, I would have a pretty good adjustment to it and make an impact right away," the Michigan Wolverines defenceman said. "But I don't know if it's necessarily the best decision."
Power, who produced three goals and 16 points in 26 games as an NCAA freshman, isn't sure when he'll be turning pro. After a strange pandemic year, Power is interested in getting the full school experience.
"I don't think there's really a bad option," he said of the 2021-22 season. "It's just where me and the people around me think is better."
When he gets to the NHL, Power's destination seems likely to be Buffalo. The Sabres own the top pick in July's draft and Power is the top-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting's final list. TSN director of scouting Craig Button had Power at No. 1 in his mock draft after Buffalo won lottery.
"It'd be pretty special," Power said when asked about potentially being the top pick. "It's something every kid grows up dreaming about. Just to be in the conversation for that is pretty special. At the end of the day, it's out of my control, so can't look too much into it."
MICHIGAN MOCK: ICYMI, @CraigJButton has Owen Power to Sabres; Matty Beniers to Seattle and Kent Johnson with the #Canucks in his post-lottery Mock Draft - https://t.co/7cOwKwooLQ#TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/zXEvjSN6qr— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) June 3, 2021
That said, the Mississauga, Ont. native made it clear he would welcome the chance to join the Sabres.
"It'd be awesome," he said. "It's nice and close to home, so lots of family would be able to come down ... I would go to games when I was younger and watch the Leafs versus Sabres down in Buffalo. Obviously, it's two big fan bases and a pretty good rivalry."
Power solidified his spot atop the draft rankings at the recent IIHF World Championship, averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game while helping Team Canada win an unlikely gold medal. Power spoke to TSN about his experience in Latvia and also revealed what he'll be working on this summer.
The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
What will you remember most about your world championship experience?
"Being around all the pro guys and learning from them and then bringing home the gold medal, especially after the slow start we had. Just seeing the way that we started [with three straight losses] and the way that we ended was pretty special."
The last day of the group stage, Team Canada needed the Germany-Latvia game to end in regulation in order to advance. Were you keeping an eye on that game?
"We had it on in the players' lounge and everyone was watching. We knew what had to happen and luckily it happened, so everyone was pretty pumped."
What's one thing you learned from a teammate or coach or management member that stands out?
"Going in they had all said, 'Just play and don't be afraid to make mistakes.' That's something that I did and it benefitted me all throughout the tournament."
What allowed you to go from a limited role at the start of the tournament to big minutes by the biggest games?
"When I was playing limited minutes, I had good, solid shifts and gained the trust of the coaches. Playing good hockey in the opportunities I got helped me and then, obviously, unfortunately we had an injury [to Colin Miller] that also freed up some space for me to play a little bit more."
Was there a game or moment when you were like, 'Okay, I got this. I belong here at this level'?
"I wouldn't say there was a certain moment. The first couple practices I felt comfortable right away, so I was confident in myself going into those games and when I got my opportunity I ran with it."
Who was the toughest player you faced?
"Probably [Vladimir] Tarasenko from Russia. Obviously, he's a real good NHLer and I thought he was pretty tough to play against with how strong he is and how dangerous he was."
What was your mindset when you had to be out there with him?
"I don't think I had that much of a different mindset. Like I said before, you can't play scared. You got to go out there and play and keep a tight gap. If you give those players a lot of space they're just going to take advantage of it, so try and keep a tight gap and give him no space to make plays."
So, you go from Michigan freshman to world champion, in which ways have you grown this season?
"Just all around as a defenceman I've gotten a lot better. I think offensively I've gotten a lot better. There's a lot of areas of my game that really improved when I was at Michigan and continued to improve when I went to the Worlds."
How much potential do you see in the offensive side of your game?
"I see a lot. It's nowhere near where I think it can get. It's just going to continue to get better and that's something I focus on working on in the summer. I think there's tons of room for improvement."
How do you work on that?
"Well, a lot of it is watching video. And then, on the ice, you work on stuff – whether it’s skating or shooting. So, just working on those two things and different patterns and maybe different releases with shooting. There's lots of ways to work on it and it should be fun to start working on it."
Is there someone, in particular, you enjoy watching?
"Pretty much any of the top D in the NHL. Whenever they're playing I'll kind of choose the game to turn on and try and focus on them. Offensively, someone I really like is [Roman] Josi and Quinn Hughes, obviously, and [Cale] Makar. Any of the top D, really, I'll watch to try and pick stuff from their game and put into mine."
What was it like going through a season with two other guys at Michigan – Matthews Beniers and Kent Johnson – who are also top prospects?
"All three of us benefitted from it by just being able to push each other and also give each other heads up when there's different teams we met with or whatever. So, just having those guys go through it with me was pretty special and probably made it a little bit easier on all of us."
For the team that picks Beniers, what kind of player and person are they getting?
"A two-way guy who's got a motor and is always going. He's really good defensively and also really good offensively. And, as a person, he's a really good guy and a great teammate. He's someone that everyone loves and a good all-around person."
And what about Johnson?
"As a player, someone who's so gifted offensively and so skilled. He's someone that the fans will find fun to watch. He's real creative. And, as a person, I think same thing as Matty, just a real good kid and teammate. Both guys are all-around good people."
As someone who's studying sports management at Michigan, what stands out about your interviews and interactions with NHL teams so far?
"Just how similar a lot of them are. That was pretty interesting. They all ask pretty similar questions to figure out the same stuff."
What's the most common question?
"You have the typical ones about what you need to improve on and what you think you're good at. I think every team asks that."
And what do you say? What's your strength?
"I just say, 'I'm a two-way defenceman who is good in all areas of the ice and can play in every situation.' So, that's my go-to and what I say every time, pretty much."