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NHL Draft

Power making case to be top pick in 2021 NHL Draft

Michigan defenseman, forwards Chibrikov, Coronato, Johnson among early season standouts

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

The 2021 NHL Draft is scheduled to be held July 23-24. Every two weeks, will take a closer look at some of the draft-eligible players to watch.

Owen Power has gained confidence playing a big role as a freshman at the University of Michigan this season.

The 18-year-old defenseman, No. 1 on's list of the Top 32 prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft, has 12 points (two goals, 10 assists), two power-play goals, a plus-9 rating and leads Michigan with 26 blocked shots in 16 games.

"I think my game has matured a lot since I've been here," Power told the "NHL Draft Class" podcast. "I think the biggest thing, defensively, I've gotten a lot better just holding gaps, keeping it tight. Offensively, I think I'm getting better every game and continue to improve in that area."

Power (6-foot-6, 214 pounds) is one of 50 nominees for the 2021 Hobey Baker Award, presented annually to the top NCAA men's Division I hockey player, along with Michigan teammates defenseman Cameron York (Philadelphia Flyers), and forward Kent Johnson (2021 draft eligible).

"[Power] is very mature beyond his years, just the way he plays the game," Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. "He's got a maturity about him ... he's already playing like a pro. At times he almost slows the game down too much. College hockey is sort of a frantic, busy game. In the pro game, there's a little bit more control. But Owen's already trying to play with that control and we're trying to get him to move the puck a little quicker because the game is a little more scrambling, guys around you're faster.

"I think the whole package is what makes him so special and then, when you get to know him, he's an absolute sponge, a rink rat. I have to kick him off the ice all the time and try to preserve that energy for the games ... he's just an unbelievable young man."

Power, who entered the United States Hockey League as a 15-year-old with Chicago in 2018-19 and set a league record by scoring 11 goals as a 16-year-old defenseman, has spent a lot of time searching for ways to improve.

"I try and see (on video) all my options with the puck," Power said. "What I could have done better, if I could change the skating pattern, the way I read the defense, because it's a lot easier to see what's open on the camera. It gives me a feeling for how much space I have in certain areas and then I can try and be calm, look for certain plays that I'm seeing.

"I think you also got to be able to think the game really well. It's so fast ... in the NHL you got to be able to make plays under pressure, got to be smart with the puck. I think skating, hockey sense, are probably the two biggest things." 


PROSPECTS ON THE RADAR (listed alphabetically):

Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA-1946 St. Petersburg 2 (RUSSIA-JR): Chibrikov (5-10, 161), an A-rated skater on Central Scouting's Players to Watch List for January, has scored eight points (three goals, five assists) in nine games. The 17-year-old forward also scored two points (one goal, one assist) in 12 games with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League earlier this season.

"A classical, speedy, skilled, smart talented Russian wing who can skate, pass, shoot and competes hard," Goran Stubb, NHL director of European Scouting said. "He's an energy player, always on the move looking for open space and he's rated top-three among Russian prospects for the 2021 draft."

Matthew Coronato, RW, Chicago (USHL): Committed to Harvard University for the 2021-22 season, Coronato (5-11, 180) is an A-rated skater. The 18-year-old forward is second in the United States Hockey League with 43 points (19 goals, 24 assists), first with 97 shots on goal and third with six power-play goals in 24 games. 

"Coronato is a solid skater with a good, powerful stride," Greg Rajanen of NHL Central Scouting said. "He's mobile with the puck, has a very quick release in stride and brings good poise. He's got good compete and instincts."

Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA): Johnson (6-0, 166), and Power are the two players eligible for the 2021 draft nominated for the 2021 Hobey Baker Award. Johnson, an 18-year-old, A-rated skater, is tied with Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose Sharks) for the Michigan scoring lead with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 16 games playing left wing on a line with center Matthew Beniers (2021 draft eligible) and Luke Morgan.

"He's an elite point producer," David Gregory of NHL Central Scouting said. "He plays with pace and skill, is crafty with the puck and can snipe it as well."

Oskar Olausson, RW, HV 71 Jr. (SWE-JR): Olausson (6-1, 177), is an A-rated skater. The 18-year-old forward has scored 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 16 games, and also scored four points (three goals, one assist) in 16 games with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League.

"He's strong on his skates, likes to go for the net, has a good work ethic, and is a responsible team guy," Stubb said. "He's an excellent product of the Swedish youth program and could be a late first-round or early second-round pick."

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