Owen Power, expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, said he's strongly considering returning to play for the University of Michigan next season.
"I think right now I'm probably leaning more toward going back to school," the 18-year-old defenseman told "NHL Now" on Friday. "It's something I'd like to do, trying to get the true experience of playing college hockey. At the end of the day, it obviously depends on what the team wants and what everyone around me thinks is best. I don't think there's really a bad option, but I'd say I'm leaning a bit more toward going back to school right now."
Power (6-foot-6, 213 pounds) is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.
The Buffalo Sabres won the NHL Draft Lottery on June 2 and have the No. 1 pick. The Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season, will pick No. 2.
The first round of the 2021 draft is July 23. Rounds 2-7 are July 24.
Power could sign an entry-level contract and play in the NHL next season, after his college season is complete.
Power scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 26 games as a freshman. Michigan earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament but was unable to play because of COVID-19 protocol.
He helped Canada win the 2021 IIHF World Championship with three assists and 17 shots on goal averaging 20:07 of ice time. Power played 24:17, including a Canada-high 10:31 in the third period of a 3-2 win against Finland in the championship game.
"[Power] is going to be a superstar hockey player," Canada coach Gerard Gallant said. "We all know he's got the talent and skill, but to see him do what he did at this level of hockey, as an 18-year-old ... he's obviously going to be drafted early in the first round. He's going to be outstanding."
Power's teammates at the World Championship also were impressed.
"He's so young, but he plays like a 10-year veteran in the NHL," goalie Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes said. "He had so much poise out there, reads the play so well, and it was a lot of fun to be out there with him. It's going to be fun watching him develop and just take his game to another level."
The last player chosen No. 1 to not play in the NHL the following season was Erik Johnson, selected first by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Draft. The defenseman opted to stay at the University of Minnesota and made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 season.
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report
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