Plenty of NCAA teams probably say they’re “nationial champions or bust,” but for the 2021-22 Michigan Wolverines, it kind of feels like anything less would be a pretty enormous letdown, right? Or at least a serious indictment of coaching/the program’s depth?
That’s the feeling after hearing that top 2021 NHL Draft picks Owen Power, Matty Beniers, and Kent Johnson will return to the University of Michigan for the 2021-22 season. After dominating the top of the 2021 NHL Draft, Michigan should probably dominate the NCAA. Anything less would feel downright odd.
Top 2021 NHL Draft picks (Power, Beniers, Johnson) return to Michigan
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) August 20, 2021
- With the first overall pick of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Sabres selected Power. Read more about the big defenseman, and what he means to the Sabres, here.
- In a rare feat, that same Michigan program also yielded the second pick of the 2021 NHL Draft. With their first-ever draft pick, the Kraken selected Matty Beniers. Some view Beniers as a player with shades of Ron Francis, the Kraken’s GM.
- Not much later, another talented Michigan prospect went off the board. At fifth overall, the Blue Jackets selected Kent Johnson.
Heading into the 2021 NHL Draft, pundits didn’t view Power or other prospects along the same “can’t-miss” lines as the likes of Jack Hughes, Alexis Lafreniere, or Rasmus Dahlin. From a development standpoint, it makes sense for Power, Beniers, and Johnson to roll through another season with Michigan, then.
When you consider the state of each team, these decisions make even more sense.
The Sabres are a mess, and keeping Power away from that might be a victory in itself. While the Kraken could easily be respectable, they’re an expansion team. (They also figure to be relatively deep, at least for a forward trying to crack the lineup straight out of the 2021 NHL Draft.) The Blue Jackets are more or less in the same boat as the Sabres.
With Power not making the jump as a number one pick, this was already rare. Erik Johnson (number one by the Blues in 2006) ranks as the last top pick not to make the immediate jump. Jordan Staal, the second pick of that draft, made an immediate impact for the Penguins, scoring 29 goals in 2006-07.
That said, it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that previous No. 1 overall draft picks maybe should’ve followed Power’s route, instead. Even when it’s less obvious than these cases from the 2021 NHL Draft.