Welcome to my ramblings, where I’ll be writing down my thoughts on NHL and draft-eligible prospects once a week. I’ll be using the ramblings to keep you posted on the week’s events, or let you in on some questions I ask myself often regarding prospects, amateur scouting and player development.
A couple of big-name prospects have finally hopped onto the ice for their first steps in the NHL, and what better to do than to delve into their performances so far? We’ll take a look at the top-two picks in 2021, Owen Power and Matthew Beniers, in more depth, then cover the other prospects who earned their debuts in the past few weeks, namely Kent Johnson, Nick Blankenburg, Ben Meyers, and Thomas Bordeleau.
Owen Power, LD — Buffalo Sabres
Power’s NHL debut came as no surprise to anyone who’s watched him even once this year with the University of Michigan — he was ready. No doubt about it. His game was already polished and close to its final product when he was drafted first-overall in 2021, but there were still areas that needed development. Specifics that, had he made the jump instantly, he likely would’ve been too concerned with keeping his roster spot to perfect.
His passing needed some work — patience is one thing, but overhandling is another. Check. His skating habits also needed some work — his stride is sound, but he seemed sluggish at times, taking himself out of the equation on more than one occasion by not skating through his passes. Check.
Now, the Sabres have a transitional ace, with the ability to dominate the small-area game with his back to the play, and dominate the long game when facing it.
Oh, and he’s 6-foot-6, 220-ish pounds. In the words of Kanye West: “Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore”.
Through four games, the most recent first-overall pick has earned a primary assist, maintained a Corsi For percentage above 50 (52.73 — via NST), and generally looked like a player way older than his 19 years of age. Although there were moments in which it was clear he still had some things to learn, for a rookie taking his first steps in the league, Power showed a lot of what he could offer at the next level.
As his career progresses, his number of defensive zone starts will increase. Out of his 49 starts so far, only eight have occurred on either side of his own goaltender. It is clear that the Sabres coaching staff is doing its best to give Power positive ice-time to work with, but I maintain that Power is at his best when breaking out the puck. If any rookie should be getting defensive zone starts early, it’s him.