Deep Dive: A look into Owen Power’s game
The Michigan Wolverines men’s hockey program has the potential to see three of its members drafted in the opening 10 picks of the 2021 NHL Draft later this month. At the top of that list is potential No. 1 pick Owen Power.
Power, first in FCHockey’s Final ranking for the 2021 draft, has been considered the top prospect available for this draft for some time and has only reassured people of his ranking with his play this past year. A graduate of the USHL powerhouse Chicago Steel, Power has played for prestigious programs for most of his playing career.
While there remains some debate over his draft status, he has very much cemented himself as the No. 1 ranked player with his impressive performance at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship by helping Canada capture gold.
Power has an impressive skillset that he brings to the game. It’s those skills and his physical stature that will allow him to potentially turn into a superstar at the NHL level.
There is no blueprint to being a successful NHL defenseman in today’s game, but the physical tools that Power has been blessed with are the same that every NHL teams covets, and skills that translate to a long, successful professional career.
Power stands 6-foot-6 and 214 pounds, and has room to add more strength to his frame before making the jump to the NHL.
As the game has evolved, players like Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar and Samuel Girard have become to poster boys for offensive defenders with their smaller stature, quick feet and high-level skill with the puck. Power, though, has a rare combination of his size and those high-end offensive skills, and that’s why so many regard him as the best player in the draft.
Power has the massive frame, but he also brings high-end skating ability and vision that allow him to drive transition play for his team. He uses his vision and passing ability to complete simple easy passes, allowing a smooth transition from defense to offense.
The ability to carry the puck in the defensive zone, examine the ice and make a simple pass to his teammate to start the transition is something that defenseman must excel at to be effective. Power has a knack for plays like this.
In the defensive zone, Power is calm with the puck on his stick and has the skill and smarts to complete effective breakout passes. Not only does he hit his teammates with strong outlet passes, but he hits them in stride allowing for a smooth transition.
His skating and mobility allow him to be effective in more than just breakouts, though. Power has the offensive ability and an aggressive mindset that allows him to create zone entries for himself and his teammates.
When you watch him skate through the neutral zone, he doesn’t look like the fastest skater but he has long, powerful strides that allow him to carve up the ice and create offensive opportunities for his team.
Not only does Power skate through the neutral zone and completes a nice zone entry for his teammates, but he also keeps his feet moving and stays up with the play to help his team generate a potential offensive chance.
This is a bit of a theme for Power. His skating ability allows him to create controlled zone exits/entries on a regular basis. His ability to use his feet and drive transitional play will allow him to be effective at the next level even if the point production doesn’t translate right away.
When watching him play, you can easily forget that he stands in at 6-foot-6 because he moves around the ice so smoothly and is effective in transition play. He can do things that most players his size can only dream of, and when you factor in his young age it’s easy to get caught up in thinking of what he will be doing as a 25-year-old in the prime of his career.
Power’s mobility translates into the offensive zone, and because he has elite offensive instincts he can be a nightmare for opposing teams to defend against.
As a rearguard, Power is effective at working from high-to-low in the offensive zone. He can generate offensive pressure from anywhere, whether it be from the blue line or the slot. When you look at his shot map from this calendar year (thanks to our friends at InStat), you can see that he will generate shot attempts from many different areas, and he doesn’t rely on low percentage point shots when trying to create for himself.
Under pressure, Power is able to make a pass from high to low, then he works his way to the slot to receive a pass and get a prime scoring chance on the Arizona State goaltender. Plays like this are a common occurrence for Power in the offensive zone and are a prime reason he’s been able to produce at every level he’s played at.
Power has a knack for using his skating ability to create for himself, but he is a multi-dimensional threat on offense. When he activates from the blue line he looks for teammates and has the ability to find open teammates and deliver passes with great accuracy.
You can see him work down low to the lower half of the faceoff circle, he receives a pass, and you can see him with his head up and spots teammate and fellow 2021 draft eligible Matthew Beniers open in the slot. Power quickly releases the puck off his stick and hits Beniers for an easy tap-in goal.
These are just brief glimpses, but Power’s ability to create for himself and for others in the offensive zone will help him as he works his way to the NHL.
Players like Hughes, Makar and Adam Fox are so deadly because of the way the drive offensive play, and Power has shown flashes of the same potential play driving capabilities.
Power’s defensive game isn’t completely polished and he does allow himself to get beat on a few occasions, but he understands how to use his reach and his skating ability to recover in the defensive game.
When opposing players are able to beat him wide, or get a position of advantage on him when battling for a loose puck Power can use his long reach to bail himself out of a tough situation.
Power appears to be beat to the loose puck, but you can see him using his body and his long reach to recover and poke the puck out of harm’s way.
While being able to recover when you get beat is an important skill as a defenseman, Power will want to learn how to use his size/skating to avoid putting himself in these tricky situations — especially when he plays against faster competition at the NHL level. But for now, it’s encouraging to see that he doesn’t panic when he gets beat and can calmly get himself out of trouble.
Areas of Improvement
The 2021 draft has been considered to be wide open with many different scouts having a different No. 1 prospect. And while Power has appeared to have separated himself from the pack, it doesn’t mean that he is a perfect prospect.
Like many young players he has some areas that he must improve in before he can become an impact NHLer, but the people that know Power well have little doubt that he will improve in those areas.
Use of Size
While discussing his tools and skillset, I highlighted Power’s ability to recover when he gets beat while defending.
The issue with Power is that at times he can rely too much on his size to bail him out, and if he wants to take his game to the next level he will need to learn how use his skating and body to dictate the play rather than rely on it as a reactionary tool. This may sound like a big knock against Power, but it’s more of a consistency issue than anything. He has shown that he understands how to defend and take away time and space from defenders.
Power uses his skating and his frame to defend against the Finnish attacker. He takes away the opposing player’s time and space and forces them to the outside and negates any threat opposed by Finland.
This is when Power is at his best. He dictates play and isn’t forced to react to his opponent.
He’s shown flashes of understanding how to use his size to his advantage but he needs to learn how to do this on a regular basis rather than once in a while.
Here, Power doesn’t use his footwork and frame to take away the attacking player’s space. Rather, he lets the Minnesota skater dictate play and the Gopher’s end up scoring a goal. On that play you can see that Power had more than enough time to close in and potentially knock the puck out of harms way but doesn’t use his size to his advantage and it comes back to bite him.
These two plays show that while he does have the size to be a shutdown defender at the next level he still has to learn how to use his physical tools better to his advantage.
Like any young player, Power still struggles with some of his decisions on the ice. For players this age it’s easy to pick on their decision-making because at times they make mistakes in bunches.
In Power’s case, it’s more about his confidence than it is with his ability to process the play in front of him. He’s a high-IQ player who more times than not will make a smart decision. But when he hesitates or doesn’t trust what he sees, Power winds up getting himself into trouble.
A routine play, Power gets the puck at the blue line and begins to work himself towards the middle of the ice to open a shooting or passing lane. With the Ohio State player bearing down on him, Power over-handles the puck and hesitates on taking the shot through the open lane, and the puck harmlessly deflects into the corner.
On plays like this, especially in the NHL, defensemen need to trust their instincts and make a quick decision. If Power hesitates or waits too long at the next level, the puck will be knocked off his stick and going the other way on a potential odd-man rush.
At the World Championship, Power needed to adjust to the playing speed before settling into a regular role on Coach Gerard Gallant’s team. But as you saw, there were a few instances where he struggled to make decisions under pressure and wound up turning the puck over or making a mental mistake.
While this can be alarming for some, it needs to be stated that he is still a young player and that as he continues to get more reps and learn from his mistakes it is very possible that he will improve in this area.
His efforts at the World Championship are a good microcosm of what Power’s career arc could be. He started with a small role and took time to adjust, but by the end of the tournament he was one of Canada’s most reliable defenders. And while there were still mistakes, he showed a willingness to learn from them and the ability to adapt and evolve as the tournament went on.
Now that I’ve dug into some of the tools Power brings to the ice and two key areas that he will have to improve on, I want to talk about some of the misconceptions that people have about him. The most common narrative I’ve seen about Power is that he doesn’t have ‘star’ potential.
People often mistake the lack of dynamic highlight plays indicates a lower-ceiling on a prospect.
There is definitely a big difference when you compare the tape of Power to a player like Rasmus Dahlin or Makar’s draft years, but don’t let that fool. Power brings a ton of high-end skill to the game and is capable of highlight reel plays.
“He’s a safe pick”
Another misconception people have about Power is that he is a safe pick, and while I do agree to some level, that type of label usually comes with a catch. Safe players are often referred to as players that will make the NHL but won’t make huge impacts once they get there. Typically, safe players don’t have a lot of room to grow.
When you look at the areas of improvement for Power and what those areas can do for his game, you can see that he has a ton of room to grow and has potential to an impact player at both ends of the ice. Safe players don’t have superstar potential and I strongly feel that Power can reach that level of ceiling.
Ryan Hardy, Power’s general manager with the Steel last season, agrees.
“I think he’s a No. 1 defenseman for 15, 20 years,” Hardy said in a phone interview in June. “I think that he’s going to be a true leader and drive that culture, he can do everything.”
“Doesn’t play big”
This is a common Power narrative. Many say that he doesn’t use his size and that he’s soft because he doesn’t throw bone crushing hits on a regular basis. As highlighted in this piece, Power does use his size but just needs to work on using it more consistently.
And for those who say he’s soft because he doesn’t throw bone crushing hits, Power has shown an ability to play physically but when his game revolves more around controlling the puck there is little need for him to be a physical force.
Projecting Power’s Career
Power has openly said he has been leaning towards returning to Michigan for his sophomore season in the NCAA and that he will discuss options with the NHL club that selects him. Another year in college will do Power a great deal of good. He will be able to work on his deficiencies and continue to grow his offensive game on a strong Michigan team, and potentially contend for a National Championship.
When you look at Power’s game and examine what he does well, you can easily see a player who will play in a team’s top-four for a long time. If he can learn to use his body more effectively and trust what he sees, then I think he has the potential to be a star in the league for a long time.
Whoever drafts him will be getting a solid player, and a prospect that a team potentially build your blue line around for 10-15 years.
He isn’t a perfect prospect. But Power has made a strong claim for the first overall selection in the 2021 draft.