This year’s draft class hasn’t had as clear a consensus on a No. 1 overall pick as we’ve seen in seasons past. The nature of this unprecedented hockey season -- or, in some prospects' cases, no season at all -- has made it extremely difficult for NHL scouting staffs to truly get a grasp on this class of 2021.
But amid this season of uncertainty, one name has appeared atop various scouting rankings more often than most: Owen Power. Considering his NHL-ready size, strong skating, and recent outing with Canada at the IIHF world championship, it's not a surprise he was listed atop NHL Central Scouting's North American skater rankings.
Here’s what you need to know about Power, the top-rated defenceman who's projected to be selected first overall in the class of 2021.
Age: 18 (Nov. 22, 2002)
Current team: University of Michigan (NCAA)
Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.
Weight: 214 pounds
He’s got NHL-ready size
Draft seasons deal so much in potential and intangibles, and that's made this year's class tough to assess in both regards. While Power has tons of immeasurables that make him a top pick -- his elite hockey sense, for one -- it's the measurables that jump off the page.
At six-foot-five and 214 pounds, he's built for an NHL blue line. A strong skater, Power is also incredibly efficient with the puck and can be depended on in just about any situation. He might not be the most physical presence or the flashiest of offensive drivers, but if you're looking for a big, efficient rearguard who can log even bigger minutes on the regular -- and let's be honest: who isn't? -- Power is as safe a bet as you can make on an 18-year-old being able to jump into the pros.
He was one of Canada’s best at worlds
We didn’t get to see Power play at this year’s world juniors – he was one of five draft-eligible prospects named to Canada’s selection camp roster back in October, but Michigan did not release him for the event due to the extensive time commitment asked of players entering the bubble.
We did, however, get to see him sport the maple leaf on the international stage this spring at the IIHF World Championship. It’s not often we see a draft-eligible player shine amongst men at the tournament, but Power did exactly that. He registered three assists, which led Canada's defencemen, but the most impressive part of his game was how quickly he was able to learn and adjust throughout.
You could actually see the evolution of his game, starting with modest minutes early on as he adapted his defending to the larger international ice, and blossoming into one of the Canada’s best and most-used blue liners by tournament’s end as he helped Canada rebound from a slow start to claim gold.
Even within games, his ice time surged as the games progressed. Power logged at least 24 minutes in all three elimination-round games, with Team Canada's head coach, Gerard Gallant, giving him an increasingly heavy workload with every period and high-stakes situation.
This ability to confidently adjust his game and thrive on the fly is something Power has done at each level he's played, from the USHL to the NCAA, and then at the Worlds.
He's "better than people think"
Ryan Hardy, former general manager of the USHL's Chicago Steel, oversaw Power's development for two seasons and knows the prospect's potential better than most. Hardy, who was recently hired as senior director of minor league operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs, believes there's much more to Power than what we've seen.
"I think he's better than people think that he is," Hardy said on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast in June. "I hear a lot about how there's no generational player in this draft. Owen Power is special. You could see it at the Worlds. There's a bunch of NHL players, USA plays Canada and this one guy, 18-year-old defenceman, just looks a little bit different than everybody else, you know?"
Hardy said it's Power's mindset that makes him a special player.
"He's a humble kid, he wants to be great, he gets knocked on that he's not overly physical or whatever the case may be but he's super, super competitive, burns real deep in him, he wants to be a great player, he loves to be coached, he loves to learn and he's a great person," Hardy said.
He plays beyond his age
Hardy, of course, is just one name on an ever-growing list of players, coaches, and executives who have sung Power's praises.
This spring, Power quickly earned the trust of Gallant during the worlds, and he also impressed his Team Canada teammates. One of the biggest takeaways from those who have studied the prospect or played alongside him is how mature his game is. He’s just 18 years old, but you wouldn’t know it.
Here’s Team Canada goaltender Darcy Kuemper on Power’s performance at the Worlds, via NHL.com’s Mike Morreale:
"He's so young, but he plays like a 10-year veteran in the NHL.
“He had so much poise out there, reads the play so well and it was a lot of fun to be out there with him. It's going to be fun watching him develop and just take his game to another level."
And here’s what Adam Henrique, who captained Canada to gold, had to say:
"You can see his maturity. He's humble and pretty quiet and just kind of allowed his game to come out, and it was fun to watch.
“He's certainly going to be a great player for years to come."
He’s leaning towards returning to Michigan
Power's freshman year at Michigan was productive -- his three goals and 13 assists in 26 games ranked him second among the team's defencemen in scoring, and his success landed him on the Big Ten All-Freshman team of 2020-21 -- but this past year of hockey was anything but normal. This spring saw the Wolverines' season ultimately cut short as positive COVID-19 tests saw the would-be second-seeded team pulled from the NCAA tournament. That meant we also didn't get to see top-rated prospects like fellow Michigan freshmen Matthew Beniers or Kent Johnson.
Asked during a June interview on NHL Network about his initial thoughts on whether he'd go pro or play another year of NCAA hockey in 2021-22, Power said he’s leaning toward heading back to Michigan for his sophomore season.
“I think right now I’m probably leaning more toward going back to school,” he said. “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.”
He reiterated that stance in an NHL.com interview a few weeks later, indicating his desire to play another year with what is a tight-knit group of talented young players. He also said the opportunity to play with incoming freshman and fellow draft-eligible d-man Luke Hughes would be "pretty special."
Speaking of "pretty special," this Michigan draft haul is just that. Per draft specialist Sam Cosentino's latest rankings, there are four Wolverines in the top 10, with Power and Beniers sitting first and second and Kent Johnson and Hughes also considered top prospects.
We've seen the benefit another year of college hockey can do for a young blue liner's development -- think Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, and Charlie McAvoy for example -- and while it's not often we see a No. 1 overall pick return for another NCAA year, it could certainly bid well for the NHL team that selects him in the long run, should both team and player go that route.