The team announced Friday that the Buffalo Sabers have signed defender Owen Power to a three-year junior contract.
Power, 19, was selected by Sabers with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He returned to play his second season at the University of Michigan, where he scored 32 points (3+29) in 33 games.
Michigan’s season ended Thursday with an overtime loss to Denver at the Frozen Four.
The Sabers have three games left on their current wild ride: Friday in Florida, Sunday in Tampa Bay, and Tuesday in Toronto.
Buffalo’s next home game is on Thursday against St. Louis.
Video: Sabers Embedded: 2021 NHL Draft
The force was widely seen as the best available player in last summer’s draft after Michigan’s freshman season where he earned 16 points (3 + 13) in 26 contests and earned a selection for the Big Ten’s All-Rookie Team. He cemented that status in May with his performance in the IIHF World Championships, where – against NHL competition – he clocked 20:07 of ice time and won the gold medal.
Bauer said when drafting that he felt ready to immediately enter the NHL, even though he was considering going back to school. His new campaign ended abruptly when the Wolverines were forced to lose their first game in the NCAA Championship due to COVID-19 cases.
The unfinished business prompted Power to return to Michigan in pursuit of a national title alongside fellow top five teammates Matthew Benners, Luke Hughes and Kent Johnson.
“Going back in another year, I can get a lot of development, and the ability to dominate college-level games,” Power told Sabers during a pre-draft interview. “And then, how good the team will be next year, we’ll have a really good chance of winning the national title.”
The team’s two wins waned, but Power seemed to be part of a dominant force. His 0.97 points per game ranked him third among NCAA defenders. Its rating +27 tied it to 14th place in the country.
Bauer’s decision also opened the door for him to participate in the World Junior Championships, where he became the first Canadian defender in tournament history to win a hat-trick (the remainder of the event was later postponed), and at the Beijing Olympics, where he led the Canadians with an ice average time of 21:38.
Sabers general manager Kevin Adams saw progression out of the man of defense as the year went on.
“Owen is very aware of his game, what he does well, and what he wants to work on,” Adams said in January. “When I go to watch him play and talk to him after the match, he immediately gives a breakdown of his matches: ‘I liked what I did here, and I think I need to do better there.'”
“It’s impressive at such a young age to see that. And I think part of his mentality coming back this year has been to grow and he’s attacked the season. This player for me epitomizes the kind of people we want at the Buffalo Sabers and in our locker room, the people who get up every day and they want to be better.”
The Force is the fourth draft pick in Sabers history, joining Gilbert Perreault (1970), Pierre Turgeon (1987), and Rasmus Dahlen (2018).
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