Owen Power’s first game in a Michigan jersey may have to wait a little longer.
On Oct. 29, the freshman defenseman was announced as one of the 46 players invited to Canada’s National Junior Team Selection Camp. The camp will run from Nov. 16 through Dec. 13 in Red Deer, Alberta. If Power attends, the first month of his season — which begins the weekend of Nov. 13 — will effectively be wiped out.
But there’s no guarantee that Michigan coach Mel Pearson will allow Power to attend.
In a normal year, Power would miss very little, if any, of the Wolverines’ season. The camp normally begins in the middle of December and only lasts two weeks, during which no college games are played. But because Canadian junior leagues have delayed their seasons and are not currently playing games, the camp has been extended, overlapping with the college season.
If the camp were to start in December, Pearson would likely let Power go — he allowed both former defenseman Quinn Hughes and sophomore defenseman Cam York to do so in their respective freshman years. But the early start complicates his decision.
“It’s not the ideal situation,” Pearson said. “I would like to let Owen experience it and go there, but at the same time, I’ve got to look at the overall picture and what’s right for Owen going forward, overall, not just for a two week camp that’s played at Christmas time, but for his overall growth and development and academic interest.”
While on the surface this seems like a hockey decision, academics will play a significant role for Pearson this year, since Power will have to take classes while in a bubble in Alberta.
“Even though I think all of his classes are Zoom classes, we just wanted to see what his workload was going to be because he could be gone 51 days,” Pearson said. “If you make that team, you’re gonna be gone 51 days — 51 days in a bubble in Alberta.”
While the World Junior Championships provide players with the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world between the ages of 18 and 20, according to Pearson, it’s not always beneficial for players like Power to go. In 2018, Hughes played just over 13 minutes a game at the tournament, fifth among defensemen on the U.S. team, while York served as the seventh defenseman for the U.S. last year.
“We’ve had a lot of players go and it’s been a tough experience and you’ve got to come back with their confidence rattled a little bit,” Pearson said. “We got to build them back up.”
Even though Power would be playing for the Canadian team, he could face a situation similar to what Hughes and York faced. Power is the youngest of the 15 defensemen invited to the camp, and the only one who is yet to be drafted. Six of the defensemen were first round picks in either 2019 or 2020, and as a result, Power could be facing an uphill battle for playing time.
All things considered, staying and going both have their own benefits and drawbacks. Whatever decision Pearson makes, it will have considerable ramifications for the start of the Wolverines’ season. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Power as the second best prospect in the 2021 NHL draft, and he figures to fill a spot as a top-four defenseman for Michigan this season.
“I wish I didn’t have to make a tough decision like I’m probably going to have to,” Pearson said. “But he’s here to go to school and play hockey, not just the hockey.”
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