Sabres giving Owen Power plenty of support ahead of NHL debut

owen power sabres
Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Sabres have had to wait but Owen Power might be joining them at a perfect time.

Tuesday night in Toronto, Power, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, will make his debut against the Maple Leafs. Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, the 20-year-old defenseman was no stranger to practicing on the ice at Ford Performance Centre this week ahead of his first game.

“I grew up in this building,” said Power, whose mother, Trish, works for the City of Toronto. “I think anyone’s NHL debut is a really special moment but to be able to have it in my hometown, with all my family here, I think it makes it that much better.”

Power was first No. 1 overall pick to not spend his first post-draft season with his NHL team since Erik Johnson, who played a year at the University of Minnesota after being drafted by the Blues. The defenseman wanted a shot at an NCAA title on a stacked University of Michigan team after their championship dreams ended just before the start of the 2021 tournament due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Wolverines fell short in 2022, losing to eventual champion Denver in the NCAA Frozen Four last week. Power used his second season in Michigan to refine his game. He ran the power play and improved his decision-making in both zones. In 33 games he scored three goals, recorded 32 points, and was named to the All-Big Ten First Team.

There are eight games remaining in Buffalo’s season, and these next two weeks will provide Power with a good introduction to the NHL game. The Sabres are planning to ease him in and help him gain confidence heading into the summer.

“We haven’t thrown a lot of information at Owen,” said Sabres head coach Don Granato. “I don’t want information overload. Even systems, you look through the National Hockey League, we’re all playing 85 percent the same system. These guys know how to play games, so we don’t want to throw a lot at him. We haven’t.  

“We’ll let him absorb it at his own rate. … But it’s all going to come sort of organically.”

Help from Dahlin

Rasmus Dahlin knows what Power is going through. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick faced high expectations when he arrived in Buffalo to help turnaround a franchise in a tailspin. Things didn’t go that way, and while the Swedish defenseman was putting up 13 goals and 84 points in his first two seasons, the wins were hard to come by. 

Success doesn’t happen overnight, especially for a team that’s been run like the Sabres have over the past decade. Four years after Dahlin entered the league, the team has been sure to surround Power with help to allow him to succeed.

“He’s a young kid, he’s here to learn,” Dahlin said. “It takes time, so that’s going to be my advice to him, it takes time. Just let him be who he is and let him develop. So no rush.”

The Sabres feel like they’re in a better place than they were during Dahlin’s rookie season — a place where they can allow Power to develop without the enormous pressure to win right now.

“Nobody has to be the savior,” Granato said. “This group is going to do it together and they’re building together. You can see the camaraderie and the passion that they have for each other and to put that jersey on. It’s fun to be a part of as a coach. You guys who were all in the building saw the stick banging when Owen went in there and you could just see a group of 20-some guys just completely immersed in themselves and nothing else. In the moment. That’s fun to watch as a coach.”

Positive momentum

It’s been 11 seasons now without playoff hockey for the Sabres, but this spring there’s a different feel in the air around the franchise. They’ve gone 10-7-3 in their last 20 games, which includes wins over Toronto (twice), Minnesota, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Carolina. After struggling under former head coach Ralph Krueger, Dahlin has matched his career-high 44 points while Jeff Skinner has rebounded with a 30-goal, 54-point year. Tage Thompson has been a breakout star (32 goals, 58 points). Dylan Cozens has taken a big step in his development, and Alex Tuch, acquired as part of the Jack Eichel trade, loves being in Buffalo and showing it on the ice.

General manager Kevyn Adams is projected to have around $40 million in salary cap space to used in the off-season, plus the Sabres could have up to three picks in the opening round of the draft. There’s finally some sunshine poking through the years of rain, which will set up a 2022-23 NHL season where expectations will be back in Buffalo.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    austonmatthews
    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.