We — as a collective hockey-watching audience — have been treated and gifted multiple cemented first-overall selections for several drafts. Whether it is Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Alexis Lafreniere, or even Nathan MacKinnon in 2013 — there have been top-tier top picks for a while. Everyone knew who was going to be selected first, it was just figuring out the picks after that which caused the drama.
For 2021, influenced by the pandemic or not, there really isn’t one of those top players. According to those that have been scouting and analyzing prospects for decades, this draft doesn’t really have any prospects destined for stardom either. With a plateau of talent and no one really sure who will be selected first, most of those projections have relied on Owen Power, a towering University of Michigan defenseman, to be the top pick.
Power has already caught a lot of attention for being able to actually play some hockey, unlike some draft prospects, and was playing in one of the most prestigious college programs. Even before that, he grew and developed his game playing for the Chicago Steel of the USHL, a very well known program for taking raw skilled players and turning them into draft-ready teenagers. He has already represented his country on the big stage earlier in this spring when Canada earned the gold at the IIHF World Championships.
Despite being a likely top selection, Power hasn’t decided on his future yet. It might not be up to him, but he’s even leaning to returning to Michigan, playing out his sophomore year and developing further, rather than being thrown into the professional level. That should give you a sense of the level of prospects this year.
But don’t let that discourage you. The Wild still have two selections in the mid-to-late first round, so there will be plenty of arguing over who they should take or should have taken instead.
No. 1 (NA skaters) by NHL Central Scouting
No. 6 by Future Considerations
No. 9 by Dobber Prospects
No. 1 by Wheeler/The Athletic (midseason)
No. 1 by Sportsnet
What Scouts Are Saying
Skating is the foundation of Power’s game. You don’t see many big men with the kind of speed he has. Look at the way he can hook the net and get up the ice, and you can easily envision him creating a lot of controlled exits and entries...His edgework is very good, as well. He can evade pressure at a high level, and walk the offensive blue line to make his checks miss and create offense.
One of the most important aspects of defending other than breaking up plays is puck retrievals. In that aspect, Power is excellent due to his mobility. Pucks shot into his zone that for most are a contested battle are an easy zone exit for him...Defensively, his skating allows him to get away with some mistakes and recover from trying to create in the offensive zone.
Owen Power in transition.— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) December 4, 2020
- Controlled Zone Exit
- Controlled Zone Entry
- Good work navigating around traffic and altering path to the left side
- Drop pass to Beniers
Excellent transitional shift for Power. #2021NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/MW7FnuwTFr
From a transitional perspective, do not expect Power to push the play alone. Power isn’t going to go from zone to zone with the puck every shift. You will see instances throughout each game where Power does goes zone to zone, but Power often looks to feed zone exit passes in order to move the puck up the ice. In addition, Power is cautious with the puck and will not throw the puck into dangerous situations. If he sees the forecheck trying to close in on him, he will fall back and identify the ideal teammate to deliver a breakout pass to. Not only is it the safe approach, but it allows him to dictate the pace of the game. If he wants to slow the game down and silence an aggressive forecheck, falling back in the defensive zone buys Power some more time to find that teammate to pass to. Yet, we do see instances when Power is going from zone to zone, similarly to Clarke, he will zig-zag through the neutral zone to avoid traffic.
When defending in the neutral zone, Power will use an active stick when the rush draws close to Michigan blue-line. His active stick is the same as the gate coming crashing down. When he extends his stick out, he forces the opposition to dump the puck into the Michigan zone.
Owen Power is an offensive defenseman who possesses one of the best transitional abilities out of this draft class from defensemen. He is a very smooth puck handler and skater who likes to join the rush and loves to be offensively involved with the forward group in front of him. He sometimes looks like the fourth forward on the ice and sometimes it has a negative impact on his defensive game. He sets up chances nicely for himself and his teammates with his shot and work from around the blue line. Despite physical advantage over his peers, he is not as strong in battles as people might think he is and he needs to work on his overall defensive game since he lacks in pretty much every single important facet of it and does not work well under pressure from opposite forward groups.
Would He Fit In With The Wild?
Honestly, he would be a perfect fit for this team. Already a blue line full of mobile defenders, Power would just seamlessly come in and adapt to this system. With his size and experience in college, he could hypothetically allow for some flexibility in terms of size around him. Maybe it means more ice-time for Calen Addison, but right now I’m living in a dream world where the Wild have a top-5 pick.
A defender that doesn’t really have a skyscraper-high ceiling but will be a more-than-capable NHL defenseman is basically every blueliner that the Wild have taken in recent memory. Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Filip Johansson, even going as far back as Nick Leddy in 2009 — it has been a consistent take for this franchise no matter who is in charge.
Could The Wild Get Him?
Not at all, plainly. The Wild currently own the 21st and 25th overall picks in the first round and Power will be long-gone by then. Even if he drops a little bit — as controversial picking a defenseman first overall is — he will be going to a team that is in the first eight or so picks.
A Minnesota Relation
Most of the time, comparing prospects to current or former NHL players is a pointless exercise, as they might not even get close to that talent level and it gives an unfair expectation. But, instead we decided to have some fun with it and compare players to current or former Minnesota Wild players — with no real analysis.
The first thought that popped into my head when seeing a 6-foot-5 mobile left-handed defenseman, is Ryan Suter, obviously. A threat on the powerplay and someone that can move the puck up the ice with some skating ability — as Suter did when he was much younger — Power just reeks of this Wild comparison.