The 2021 NHL Draft has become a historic advertisement for college hockey, and Michigan can take all of the credit.
Sophomore defenseman Owen Power, sophomore forward Matty Beniers, incoming freshman defenseman Luke Hughes, and sophomore forward Kent Johnson were all selected within the top five picks on Friday night. This achievement marks several NCAA firsts, including the first time the top two players were drafted from one NCAA team, the first time three current players on one team were drafted in the first round, and easily the most players drafted in the top five – let alone from a single collegiate program.
Owen Power, the overall No. 1 pick, was selected by the Buffalo Sabres. The 18-year-old led the Wolverines with 40 blocked shots last year, and won a gold medal with Team Canada at World Championships. Buffalo looks to utilize Power as a central prospect in their rebuilding process – having finished 61 points out of playoff contention, with a record-tying 11-game losing streak this past season.
Matty Beniers will go down in history as the Seattle Kraken’s first ever NHL Draft pick. The forward scored a team-leading 10 goals during Michigan’s 26-game season, and won gold as the youngest player on Team USA’s roster at World Juniors. Beniers, the overall No. 2 pick, joins a fresh roster revealed by Seattle at their Expansion Draft earlier this week.
While Luke Hughes has not donned a winged helmet yet, his play (most recently with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Plymouth) has already received the attention of NHL scouts, and his last name has inevitably caught eyes in Ann Arbor. Selected fourth, Hughes will join his older brother Jack with the New Jersey Devils.
The Columbus Blue Jackets closed out the first five picks with yet another Michigan forward in Kent Johnson. The center developed into a reliable leader of one of Michigan’s most formidable lines last season, featuring Beniers and senior forward Luke Morgan – and had some electric moments along the way.
In addition to the four headlining picks, incoming freshman forward Mackie Samoskevich’s name was called, drafted 24th by the Florida Panthers.
Fans may revel in the possibility of physically seeing this accomplishment on the ice this coming season – with Luke Hughes set to join the team, and Beniers encouraging a return. Power’s exploration of making the same move is historic, as Erik Johnson’s 2006 season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers marked the only other occasion in which an overall no. 1 pick stayed in college.
Regardless, the showing from these players on a national platform will inevitably fuel the Wolverines’ effort on the recruiting trail in the foreseeable future.