Top NHL Picks Stay in School, Including #1 Overall Pick

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Top NHL Picks Stay in School, Including #1 Overall Pick

Larry Lage and John Wawrow, The Associated Press

Published Monday, October 4, 2021 07:06 AM EDT

ANN ARBOR, Michigan (AP) — Owen Power stood in a sea of ​​corn-clad fans pumping pompoms and cheering the Michigan soccer team for a win over Washington this fall.

The net worth is 6-foot-5 and has some notoriety as the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draw, but he blended right in with his fellow students among the 108,345 fans under the lights on an electric night at the Big House.

That’s exactly how the 18-year-old Canadian wanted it.

Power gave a million-dollar chance this season with the Buffalo Sabers, who selected the No. 1 defender overall in July. He decided to stay in school and return for his second season with the Wolverines, the number three in the preseason.

“I just thought there was no need to rush into it,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The Mississauga, Ontario native is the first player to be drafted as No. 1 overall and not go straight to the NHL since St. Louis selected Erik Johnson in 2006 and he went on to play a season in Minnesota. He is only the fourth NCAA player to be drafted as No. 1 overall, joining Michigan State’s Joe Murphy (1986), Rick DiPietro (2000), and Boston University’s Johnson.

Power walked around a largely empty and eerie campus in Ann Arbor last year, playing his freshman season without fans in the stands due to COVID-19 restrictions. Without a doubt, the pandemic played a role in Power’s decision to stay.

“He wants a normal year,” said Michigan coach Mel Pearson. “He came to college for a reason, he came to the University of Michigan for a reason: to go to class, to be a student, to hang out with kids, to go to a soccer game on Saturdays and enjoy that experience.”

A majority of the 2021 NHL draft class chose to develop one more season before making the leap to the world’s premier hockey league, and many of them are Power’s teammates. Including Tyler Boucher (Ottawa, No. 10 pick), who is determined to play at Boston University, five of the top 10 draft picks playing college hockey the season after they were picked match the total for the previous four drafts together.

Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill, who emerged as a scout and director of player development, believes last year’s pandemic-shortened season played a part in this anomaly of so many top picks going back to school.

“I think the disruption from last year’s season is probably going to play a role,” Nill said. “If they had played a full season, they would have played 50 games and gone to a national championship, played more hockey, developed more, maybe a different story.”

Michigan had to pull out of the NCAA tournament due to a virus outbreak, but the Wolverines are full this season: Four of the top five NHL draws and five of the top 24 are wearing corn and blue this season to stand a chance of making it. to win all.

The Seattle Kraken expansion took Matt Beniers No. 2 overall; New Jersey lined up Luke Hughes two picks later to eventually pair him with his brother, Jack, who was drafted first overall in 2019; Columbus took Kent Johnson No. 5 overall; and Florida selected Mackie Samoskevich No. 24.

“It’s safe to say they turned down a significant amount of money and investment,” said Michigan head coach Bill Muckalt, who played five seasons in the NHL after winning two national titles with the Wolverines. “They still feel like they can get better and better here, and we feel the same.”

Michigan has seven first-round selections — the most in NCAA history — and 13 players on the roster have been named in the NHL draw.

“Everyone expects Michigan to probably win the national championship,” said Jack Hughes as he enters his third season with the Devils. “It’s almost like a Duke basketball or Kansas basketball, calling up four of the top five kids. That’s unheard of, and I don’t know if that will ever happen again.”

During a recent training session, Power was engaged in a power play with Beniers, Hughes, Johnson and Brendan Brisson from the first round of 2020. They made tape-to-tape passes as if they had been playing together for years and fired shots at the goalkeeper.

“When we played a little bit of scrimmage, I thought, ‘Wow, this is really fun hockey to play,’” Johnson said.

The talented Wolverines aren’t the only ones choosing college over pro hockey this season.

Three other first-round candidates this year—Harvard’s Matthew Coronato, Minnesota’s Chaz Lucius, and Wisconsin’s Corson Ceulemans—also chose to remain in college for at least one more season. Jake Sanderson, drafted as No. 5 overall by Ottawa in 2020, is back in North Dakota for his second season.

Sanderson and Power are the newest defenders placed high in the service to stay in college.

Colorado took Cale Makar No. 4 in 2017 and he spent two years at UMass. Vancouver selected Jack and Luke’s brother Quinn Hughes, the No. 7 overall in 2018, and he returned to Michigan for another season. Columbus picked up Zach Werenski No. 8 in 2015, and he too came back to play for the Wolverines for another year.

“In my college hockey years, I’ve never seen a player regret taking another year,” said Seth Appert, Sabres’ AHL team coach. “I saw a lot of players regret leaving early because you have to be ready, and that’s not just as a hockey player.

“Once you get to this level, it’s your job, you’re a professional. And if you’re a high pick, there will be cameras in front of you and pressure to speak from both your circle and within the organization.” performing and the fans and the media.”


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