In the buildup to the start of college hockey season, The Daily is breaking down the film on Michigan's heralded nine-man freshman class. In this installment: defenseman Owen Power.
Over the last few weeks, hockey fans watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs have surely noticed the play of Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman. The 6-foot-6 defenseman showcases almost unprecedented speed for a player his size, making him one of the best two-way defenders in the NHL. He finished third place in Norris Trophy voting for his performance in the regular season, and he currently leads all defensemen with nine goals and a staggering +/- of 17 in the playoffs.
So when The Hockey News called Michigan freshman Owen Power “basically a young version of Victor Hedman,” it caught a lot of people’s attention.
At 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, Power certainly has the size. On the defensive end, he leverages that size by occupying passing lanes, blocking shots and knocking smaller opponents off the puck.
“He’s able to separate guys from the puck,” Brock Sheahan, Power’s former coach for the USHL Chicago Steel, said. “And not just separate. A lot of bigger defensemen, they’ll separate, but then they don’t necessarily get the puck. Maybe a teammate gets the puck, but they dislodge the puck.
“He separates and then gains possession, and is able to make a play offensively.”
Of course, a player needs more than size to stand out in college and the NHL. With the game moving faster than ever, the modern hockey player has to be dynamic and adaptable in order to truly excel.
Power checks both those boxes, and that’s why he projects as a potential lottery pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Daily broke down some film on the freshman to show what he adds to his size that makes him so highly regarded.
Defensemen are getting faster — no question about it. Part of what makes Quinn Hughes so great is his ability to turn on the jets and create opportunities that slower defensemen never could.
But to maintain that same athleticism at well above six feet is still incredibly rare. Beyond Victor Hedman, it’s tough to think of any big names with that combination.
Owen Power has it. He leverages both traits on this goal:
As Power receives the pass at the blue line, he and the defender both know he’s not in a great position to score. As the defender moves toward the far circle to block the shooting lane there, Power cuts to the other side hoping to find space for himself there. The defender follows, so Power uses his body to shield the puck and his long reach to create more distance from the defender’s stick. Then, with an explosive cut, he darts around a second defender into open space at the near circle and buries the puck on the short side. A slower defender couldn’t have made that move. Power makes it look easy.
“He is aware of where open space is,” Sheahan said. “He’s aware of where the defenders are, so he’s able to find himself in advantageous positions, and then he knows when to make the right read. He’ll jump into the right hole, and then he uses, like I said, his skating and his mind to be able to make plays.”
That awareness was just as important as quickness in that last clip. That goal doesn’t happen if Power doesn’t recognize where the defenders will be and where he can find space to shoot.
That same awareness — and flashiness — is evident when he has the puck in the neutral zone:
At center ice, Power recognizes he has a difficult zone entry ahead of him. He could try to carry the puck himself, but with three defensemen along the blue line, he would risk a turnover and an odd-man rush the other way. He could also pass to one of his teammates along the boards, but that wouldn’t really create much space and could result in an offside anyway. The safe bet would be to drop it back to his trailing teammate and regroup for another try at a zone entry.
But Power knows that the defender also sees this, so he turns his hips toward the boards to draw him in that direction. Then, he seamlessly transitions into an open pass to his trailing teammate on the other side of the ice, creating an easier carry over the blue line. Zone entries aren’t the sexiest part of hockey, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be creative. Power’s awareness on the ice makes him that much more dangerous.
“He knows where everyone is on the ice,” Sheahan said. “He’s able to find players when he has the puck that you wouldn’t think that he could see.”
For such a young player, Power has a great grasp on both the physical and mental aspects of playing hockey at a high level. So far, he’s earned every ounce of hype he’s getting.
In a few short months, Michigan will see if he lives up to it.