Between on-line lessons 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 about to overlook out on a standard NHL entry draft expertise, too.
Power, a six-foot-six, 213-pound defenceman from Mississauga, Ont., is predicted to be the highest decide when the league’s draft is held just about 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 decide in membership historical past. The Vancouver Canucks would be the first Canadian staff 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 highschool within the fall as a substitute.
“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 staff 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.
Unlike Power, many prospects on this yr’s draft class have not seen sport motion 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 optimistic 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 staff holds the 10th total decide on this yr’s draft.
The Calgary Flames will decide 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 decide.
The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt their first-round choice to the Columbus Blue Jackets in April for ahead Nick Foligno and will not decide 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 issues 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 a chance’
The Sens’ scouts have used a lot of totally different instruments over the previous yr, together with video, analytics and scouting stories, however they can not exchange the expertise of watching a participant dwell 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 appeared abroad for alternatives to hone their expertise.
Brennan Othmann, a left-winger for the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, ended up enjoying for a staff in Olten, Switzerland. The six-foot, 175-pound Toronto native registered 16 factors (seven targets, 9 assists) in 34 video games.
“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, understanding many weren’t in a position to safe related 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 introduced a novel alternative to study from a number of the sport’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.”
Both Quinn and Jack Hughes had been drafted in particular person and heard their names known 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 staff’s brass earlier than donning a recent jersey.
It’ll be a a lot totally different expertise for Luke Hughes and the opposite NHL prospects picked this yr.
They’ll collect with household and buddies, watching the draft play out on TV. A cellphone or webcam will file reactions when their identify is known as. The solely hugs and handshakes will come from these within the room.
While he is aware of his draft shall 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.”