Tue. Aug 3rd, 2021

Between on-line courses and strict COVID-19 restrictions, Owen Power’s freshman season wasn’t precisely what he anticipated.

Now the No. 1-ranked North American skater is ready to overlook out on a standard NHL entry draft expertise, too.

Power, a six-foot-six, 213-pound defenceman from Mississauga, Ont., is anticipated to be the highest choose when the league’s draft is held nearly for the second yr in a row on Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres have the primary choice, adopted by the upstart Seattle Kraken, who’ll be making the primary choose in membership historical past. The Vancouver Canucks would be the first Canadian workforce on the board, selecting ninth.

Power believes he has what it takes to be drafted first total, however he hasn’t dedicated to creating the leap to skilled hockey subsequent season. After an uncommon first yr on the University of Michigan, the 18-year-old mentioned he is contemplating going again to high school within the fall as an alternative.

Seattle Kraken common supervisor Ron Francis on the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. The Kraken will make their first choose in membership historical past, the second choice total, on Friday. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

“I think that’s probably one of the big parts of why I want to go back to school, to just be able to experience the true college experience, especially at Michigan with the fans there,” Power mentioned. “Playing in front of them, I think would be pretty special. Just actually going to class and not doing it online, just being able to do stuff other than go to the rink and home I think would be something that I would like to do.”

While there have been many challenges within the final yr, there have been some particular alternatives for Power, too.

He was chosen to the Canadian nationwide workforce for the lads’s world hockey championships in May and turned heads with three assists in eight video games en path to Canada’s gold medal win.

“I think the world championships was good for me to kind of see where I was at when playing with pros or playing against pros. So I think it gave me a bit of a better idea of how ready I was to play pro hockey,” he mentioned.

‘Minor adjustments’

Unlike Power, many prospects on this yr’s draft class have not seen recreation motion just lately.

COVID-19 restrictions restricted choices for a lot of junior hockey leagues. The Ontario Hockey League scrapped its season, whereas the Western Hockey League went with an abbreviated marketing campaign and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League noticed repeated interruptions attributable to constructive checks and ever-changing authorities guidelines.

Trent Mann, chief scout for the Ottawa Senators, felt dangerous for the younger gamers and their misplaced alternatives.

“But that’s their reality as well. For us, it just makes the job that much harder. The reality is that right now, there are players that have not played a game since February of 2019,” mentioned Mann, who’s workforce holds the 10th total choose on this yr’s draft.

The Calgary Flames will choose 13th, the Winnipeg Jets have the No. 18 choice, the Edmonton Oilers are slated to decide on 20th and the Montreal Canadiens will go second-last on Friday with the 31st choose.

The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt their first-round choice to the Columbus Blue Jackets in April for ahead Nick Foligno and will not choose till halfway by means of the second-round on Saturday.

Mann mentioned Ottawa is best ready for a digital draft after going by means of the method for the 2020 iteration in October. The group is aware of what to anticipate this time round, he mentioned, just like the problems concerned in making a commerce.

“There’s not as much time,” he mentioned. “(General manager) Pierre (Dorion) can’t walk over to the table and get something done that quickly. It just doesn’t work that way. I think there’s some little intricacies of the day itself that we’ll be able to improve upon because we’ve been through it.”

‘If you do not see it, it is just a bit bit extra of of venture’

The Sens’ scouts have used quite a lot of completely different instruments over the previous yr, together with video, analytics and scouting stories, however they cannot exchange the expertise of watching a participant reside or assembly with them face-to-face, Mann mentioned.

“That’s the piece that’s just the scary part about it all is just that if you don’t see it, it’s just a little bit more of a gamble, I guess,” he mentioned. “And we have to live with that. But it doesn’t make you feel any better, to be quite honest.”

Players have been adapting, too. When information unfold that some North American leagues had been cancelling or condensing their seasons, some athletes seemed abroad for alternatives to hone their expertise.

Brennan Othmann, a left-winger for the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, ended up taking part in for a workforce in Olten, Switzerland. The six-foot, 175-pound Toronto native registered 16 factors (seven objectives, 9 assists) in 34 video games.

Brennan Othmann of Canada places a shot on purpose towards Russia in the course of the U18 World Championship in May. The left-winger performed for a workforce in Switzerland because the OHL cancelled its season as a result of pandemic. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

“I learned a lot from the older guys there. I learned a lot from the different coaches we had on the team. I think it’s really going to benefit me and my personality as a person and a player,” mentioned the No. 8-ranked North American skater. “I can’t wait to show that at the next level.”

Othmann felt for his OHL teammates, although, realizing many weren’t capable of safe comparable alternatives.

“I had lots of buddies I played with and played against, and they can’t showcase themselves. That’s just disappointing for them and for me to hear that,” he mentioned. “We’ve worked our whole lives to get drafted in the National Hockey League. I wish some of my other peers got to play the game and showcase themselves a little bit more.”

For one prospect on this yr’s draft class, the pandemic offered a singular alternative to be taught from among the recreation’s up-and-coming stars.

Luke Hughes’ older brothers got here again to their household’s dwelling throughout quarantine, offering ample time for the budding defenceman to select their brains on taking advantage of the entry draft course of.

Jack Hughes was picked first total by the New Jersey Devils in 2019 and the Vancouver Canucks chosen Quinn Hughes seventh in 2018.

“I think quarantine was unbelievable for me to just hang out with my brothers. Jack was at my house for like, nine months,” Luke Hughes mentioned. “Just to spend that time with him, we probably won’t have that time together as a family ever again, so that was awesome, just to train with them in the summer, live with them and watch hockey together. So that was awesome.”

The youngest Hughes brother enters the draft because the No. 4-ranked North American skater after spending final season with the U.S. National Team Development Program. A six-foot-two, 184-pound blue-liner, Hughes plans on taking part in on the University of Michigan within the fall. 

Both Quinn and Jack Hughes had been drafted in individual and heard their names referred to as from the stage as applause roared round them. They every walked to the entrance of a packed stadium and shook arms with their new workforce’s brass earlier than donning a recent jersey.

It’ll be a a lot completely different expertise for Luke Hughes and the opposite NHL prospects picked this yr.

They’ll collect with household and mates, watching the draft play out on TV. A telephone or webcam will report reactions when their title known as. The solely hugs and handshakes will come from these within the room.

While he is aware of his draft will probably be a extra subdued affair, Luke Hughes has nonetheless taken some invaluable recommendation from his brothers.

“They kind of taught me going into the year that you’ve got to be ready for everything, you’ve got to stay level minded and you can’t get too high or low going through the year,” he mentioned.

“And I think that really applies to me this year because with all the COVID implications and getting shut down and quarantine at numerous times throughout the year, I think you’ve got to stay level headed and can’t be too high or too low.”

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