The Wolverine

September 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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SEPTEMBER 2021 THE WOLVERINE 9 BY CHRIS BALAS M ichigan Wolverines hockey made history last month with three current players selected in the first round, and each was tabbed among the top five picks of the NHL Draft. The program got even better news when the trio — Owen Power, Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson — all announced they'd return for another season. Power was the No. 1 over- all choice in July's NHL Draft, Beniers was tabbed No. 2 and Johnson No. 5. They'll be joined by four more first-rounders — freshmen Luke Hughes (No. 4) a n d M a c k i e S a m o s k e v i c h (No. 24), plus previous draftees in junior Johnny Beecher (No. 30, 2019) and sophomore Brendan Brisson (No. 29, 2020) — along with five other NHL Draft picks currently on the team. Power, the Buffalo Sabres' No. 1 selection, was the top- scoring rookie defenseman in the Big Ten last season with 16 points. He was on the ice for 31 of Michigan's 91 goals and recorded a plus-18 rating to earn College Hockey News Rookie of the Year honors. He was also a finalist for Big Ten Fresh- man of the Year, was named to the conference's All-Freshman Team and was voted second-team All-Big Ten. "Could he play in the National Hockey League next year? Abso- lutely," head coach Mel Pearson told the Buffalo News last month. "But having said that, I have so much respect for the NHL. It's the great- est league in the world. You have to be ready. It's a man's league, and you have to be ready to step in and perform and contribute on a nightly basis. You have to be ready for that physically, emotionally, spiritually. "… Number one, can he put on some man strength and be so much more ready to play at that level? I totally think he can. Just because you're drafted first, or when you turn 18, doesn't mean you're necessarily ready to play in the National Hockey League. Everybody is ready at differ- ent times. Owen's a great player. He's going to play in the league, whether it's next year or the year after." Power said last month he was in no hurry, insisting he was leaning toward returning for another season at U-M. He was excited nonetheless when Buffalo took him No. 1 overall. "It's pretty special," he said in his post-draft interview. "Just be- ing able to have a bunch of my family behind me and celebrate with me was pretty special and even better than the way I thought it was going to turn out. "I didn't know [Buffalo would choose me] until they called my name. I was kind of hoping. They've got a lot of young pros- pects and I think a promising fu- ture, so I'm excited for what's to come." Beniers was the expansion Se- attle Kraken's first-ever draft pick, going No. 2 overall. He led the Big Ten in on-ice rating in his fresh- man campaign with a plus-21. He notched 10 goals and 14 assists in 24 games and ranked fourth among freshmen in the NCAA in points per game. Beniers also won two medals with USA Hockey in a six-month span, capturing gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship and a bronze at the World Championship. Johnson, chosen fifth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets, made his de- but with Michigan last season with a four-assist game. He was second on the team in scoring with 27 points (nine goals and 18 assists) in 26 games played, ranking him third in the na- tion in rookie points per game. He finished plus-16 and was a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection and honorable mention All-Big Ten choice. Johnson recently took part in the Hockey Canada summer develop- ment camp. The Wolverines are slated to open the season on Friday, Oct. 8, hosting a two-game series with Lake Superior State at Yost Ice Arena. ❏ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS Michigan Hockey's Trio Of Top-Five Picks To Return This Year Defenseman Owen Power, the College Hockey News Rookie of the Year, was the No. 1 overall selection in July's 2021 NHL Draft, but he will come back to U-M for another season. PHOTO COURTESY U-M ATHLETICS

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