In the latest chapter of the “Will Owen Power play at World Juniors?” saga, Michigan coach Mel Pearson went on TSN Radio Wednesday evening to clarify his decision not to release the freshman defenseman to Team Canada.
In the interview, Pearson cited academics as the main factor in the decision. He said that, although Power and his family had been directly involved with the decision-making process, Power was disappointed that he would not be able to represent Canada at World Juniors.
“Owen’s right in the middle of his first semester here at Michigan,” Pearson said. “One of the issues was, if he makes the team, he would be gone 51 days, and on the academic end of it … that was a no-go for our school, with his midterms coming up and his finals.”
Pearson indicated he’d been working with Hockey Canada to try and find a way to for Power to keep up on his studies while at the camp in Red Deer, Alberta, but they couldn’t come to an agreement because of a class that Power has to attend synchronously every week. Pearson also cited concerns that, from the camp’s bubble in Canada, Power would not be able to receive the academic support and counseling that he normally gets in Ann Arbor.
“I told Hockey Canada — we had some great conversations, we tried to work out some things — at the end of the day, I told them I would be happy to release him come Dec. 10,” Pearson said. “His midterms, finals would be over, our schedule (would be over). He’d be coming off, again, a really good, 10-game schedule, when he’d be made available.”
While the Wolverines have released a number of players for World Juniors in the past, including current sophomore defenseman Cam York, this year’s selection camp is scheduled to last a full month, while it’s normally been two weeks in the past. That would make Power unavailable to Michigan for the entire first half of the season.
The Daily’s initial report that Pearson was unsure about allowing Power to attend the camp raised some eyebrows in Canadian hockey media. Darren Dreger — a hockey insider for TSN — tweeted that he felt World Juniors are a “great development opportunity for every young player to compete on the world stage.” When Pearson eventually chose on Tuesday not to release Power, Hockey Canada released a statement expressing disappointment in the decision.
“Although we are disappointed Owen will not be able to join our team at camp, we understand and respect the decision made by the University of Michigan,” the statement read.
Not lost in the noise is the talent that Power would bring to either team. At 6-foot-5, his unique blend of size and speed has earned him projections as one of the top prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft. Replace him with an average player, and there might not be any controversy at all.
But because Power is so talented — and because World Juniors is such an important event in Canada — Pearson’s decision will continue to be scrutinized by Canadian hockey fans and media.
“It was not an easy decision, and I don’t take this decision lightly,” Pearson said. “I was born in Vancouver, grew up in Flin Flon, Manitoba. Still a Canadian, haven’t converted. I got a lot of interesting calls yesterday from my buddies in Canada wondering what the hell’s going on here.”
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