The Buffalo Sabers have signed defenseman Owen Power to a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.
Power, 19, was selected by the Sabers with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He returned to play his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, where he tallied 32 points (3+29) in 33 games.
Michigan’s season ended Thursday with an overtime loss to Denver in the Frozen Four.
The Sabers have three games remaining on their current road trip: Friday at Florida, Sunday at Tampa Bay, and Tuesday at Toronto.
Buffalo’s next home game is Thursday against St. Louis.
Video: Sabers Embedded: 2021 NHL Draft
Power was widely regarded as the top player available in last summer’s draft coming off a freshman season at Michigan in which he tallied 16 points (3+13) in 26 contests and earned a selection to the Big Ten’s All-Rookie Team. He cemented that status in May with his performance at the IIHF World Championship, where – against NHL competition – he averaged 20:07 of ice time and won gold.
Power said upon being drafted that he felt prepared to step immediately into the NHL, though he was considering a return to school. His freshman campaign had ended abruptly when the Wolverines were forced to forfeit their first game of the NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 cases.
The unfinished business spurred Power to return to Michigan in pursuit of a national title alongside fellow top-five picks Matthew Beniers, Luke Hughes, and Kent Johnson.
“Going back another year, I can get a lot of development, being able to dominate games at the college level,” Power told the Sabers during his pre-Draft interview. “And then how good the team’s going to be next year, we’re going to have a really good chance at winning a national title.”
The team’s title aspirations fell two wins short, but Power looked the part of a dominant force. His .97 points per game ranked third among NCAA defensemen. His plus-27 rating tied for 14th in the nation.
Power’s decision also opened the door for him to participate in the World Junior Championship, where he became the first Canadian defenseman in tournament history to earn a hat trick (the remainder of the event was later postponed), and in the Beijing Olympics, where he led the Canadians with an average ice time of 21:38.
Sabers general manager Kevyn Adams saw progress out of the defenseman as the year wore on.
“Owen’s extremely self-aware of his game, what he does well, what he wants to work on,” Adams said in January. “Whenever I go watch him play and I talk to him after a game, he immediately gives a breakdown of his games: ‘I liked what I did here, I think I need to do better there.’
“It’s impressive at a young age to see that. And I think part of his mindset of going back for this year was to grow and he’s attacked the season. This player to me sums up the type of people we want on the Buffalo Sabers and in our locker room, people that get up every day and want to be better.”
Power is the fourth No. 1 draft choice in Sabers history, joining Gilbert Perreault (1970), Pierre Turgeon (1987), and Rasmus Dahlin (2018).