As the first overall pick of the 2021 NHL draft, Owen Power faces high expectations each night he plays. In the No. 3 Michigan hockey team’s sweep of Lake Superior State last weekend, he delivered.
The sophomore defenseman totaled one goal and four assists in the two-game series, leaving his mark in every facet of play and proving too much for the Lakers to handle all weekend long.
“He’s taken another step this year obviously with his offense,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “… He’s gained knowledge and some wisdom and he’s smarter with the puck.”
On Friday’s season opener, Power recorded the first four-point performance of his collegiate career, netting a goal and three assists. From the blue line, he orchestrated the offensive onslaught that drowned Lake Superior State early, putting his talent on full display.
Power’s three assists set the tone early to help the Wolverines bust open a lead. The increased attention he attracts from the defense continually opened up scoring opportunities.
That magnetic effect on opposing defenders was evident in his third assist of the night. As he controlled the puck in front of the left faceoff circle, all eyes were on him. After zipping a pass across the ice to sophomore forward Brendan Brisson, the defense struggled to recalibrate after placing such a heavy emphasis on Power, leaving sophomore forward Kent Johnson with space in front of the crease. Brisson fired the puck into the middle of the ice, and Johnson redirected it into the top-left corner of the goal.
Later in the matchup, Power flexed his shooting strength and accuracy when he extended the Wolverines’ lead to 6-1. After receiving the puck from senior forward Nolan Moyle near the blue line, Power drifted to his right before propelling a wrist shot at the net. The wrist shot had the strength of a slap shot, deflecting off the goaltender’s blocker and floating into the net for the goal.
“He’s really put in a lot of work between last year and the start of this year as far as driving the offense and creating offense,” Pearson said. “Not only from the offensive blue line or in the offensive zone but coming up the ice.”
Power’s single assist on Saturday night barely scratched the surface on the influence he had over Michigan’s win.
When facing the same team on back-to-back nights, it’s important to give teams new looks. Power did so early in the first period after gaining possession of the puck at his usual position near the blue line.
Instead of initiating a pass sequence or firing at the net, Power skated at the goal with a burst of speed, shooting at goaltender Ethan Langenegger from close range. Caught off guard, Langenegger sold out to stop the shot, leaving the net wide open with the puck loose in front. Michigan failed to cash in on the opportunity, but Power’s antics had the defense off balance early.
Later, six minutes into the game, Lake Superior State pressured on the Wolverines’ net. Power responded with his striking speed, dangling through the opposition and bringing the puck deep into the Michigan attack zone all by himself — singlehandedly flipping the game script from a Laker attack to Wolverine offense.
“He’s really improved his skating,” Pearson said. “…Power’s got more power.”
Power’s game awareness and multi-dimensional skill set came through when Michigan needed it most in the third period. The Wolverines had just clawed back from a two goal deficit to tie the game, and Lake Superior State looked to take momentum back with a key penalty kill. A Laker skater interfered with Michigan’s fine-tuned power play passing and launched the puck for a clear.
Standing at the blue line, Power said no.
He caught the puck out of the air and dropped it onto his stick. Instead of being forced to chase the puck down and lose crucial power play time, the Wolverines were in position and back in business. Shortly thereafter, Brisson launched his signature power-play one-timer into the net, giving Michigan a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Power living up to his limitless potential will be key for the Wolverines moving forward. If he maintains his high-level performance, they’ll always be on the Power play.