The Buffalo Sabres are expected to have a difficult year in the wake of the departures of veterans Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, Linus Ullmark, Jake McCabe, the uncertain future of team captain Jack Eichel, and the club’s patchwork additions in free agency over the summer.
With another bottom-dwelling campaign likely, 2021 top pick Owen Power has opted to play another year at the University of Michigan instead of turning professional. Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News reported on Thursday that the 18-year-old defenseman will return to the Wolverines for his sophomore season.
Power indicated after the NHL Draft Lottery that he was leaning towards returning to school for another year, in spite of proving that he might be ready to make the jump after an impressive performance for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championships in Latvia.
“I think right now I’m probably leaning more toward going back to school,” Power said in June. “It’s something that I’d like to do, just to try and get the true experience of playing college hockey. But at the end of the day, it obviously depends on what the team wants and what everyone around me thinks is best. So, I don’t think there’s really a bad option, but I would say I’m probably leaning a bit more to going back to school right now.”
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One reason could be that the Wolverines will be the favorites to win an NCAA Championship with fellow 2021 top picks Matty Beniers, Luke Hughes, Kent Johnson, and Brendan Brisson on the roster, another could be because of a full year in college as well as participating in the 2022 World Junior Championship for Canada will be better for his long-term development than playing major minutes for the Sabres in mostly inconsequential games this season.
It is probable that Power will turn pro after completing his year at Michigan, which will be before the end of the 2021-22 regular season. That would allow the Sabres to get the blueliner signed and introduced to the NHL and would enable Power to burn the first year of his three-year entry-level contract.