As we continue on this circuitous journey to the NHL Draft there is hope of games resuming for the OHL and the WHL. This would expand the list of eligible prospects with playing time in this critical year in their development and assessment by NHL scouts. As top prospects find roles around the world, the actual date of the draft now appears to be in discussion as reported by various media outlets, pointing to an inability to properly scout this class. Much will be determined by the ability to get games back on track, and if unable to safely return, consider move the date of the draft back from its tentative July date to later in the fall.
While we wait, and potentially more players get on the ice, we will continue to highlight the top tier of 2021 NHL Draft eligible and this week’s profile of Owen Power completes the top four from our preliminary ranking found here. You can find all of our previous profiles from this space at the end of the article. Ryan Wagman, our Director of Prospect Scouting, has watched Owen Power develop last season on the Chicago Steel, Ryan’s ‘closest to home’ rink during the season. He details why Power is a lock to go top three in the draft.
Jimmy Hamrin has also followed Nils Hoglander’s challenging and unusual path to the NHL for a number of years to the point where he is carving out a role for himself on the Vancouver Canucks. Hamrin takes you through his journey and projects his future development in the NHL.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website: www.mckeenshockey.com
Editor’s Note: The Washington Capitals face the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night starting at 6:30 pm ET on NBCSN. You can livestream the game here.
2021 NHL Draft Prospect – Towering blueliner living up to name
Owen Power, D, 17 years old, 6’6” 215 lbs
2019-20 Chicago Steel, USHL, 45GP-12G-28A-40A
2020-21 University of Michigan, NCAA, 18GP-3G-10A-13PTS
After we get over the tremendous hockey name, we see the archetype frame, two years of physical maturity away from matching the likes of Victor Hedman, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, and very few others. One of the three high end freshmen all debuting at once with the Michigan Wolverines this season, along with Matthew Beniers and Kent Johnson.
After two seasons of rapid growth with the Chicago Steel in the USHL, Owen Power has been playing big minutes from day one, involved in all situations and contributing at both ends. Simply put, he is impressive enough just from looking at his spot in the lineup. Watching him for a shift or two will then quickly demonstrate both why the hype is real and how Power has a unique game of his own to present to scouts.
I like to start evaluating a player with his skating, as I can gain understanding of his abilities in that regard on every shift, while I might not get a glimpse of his shot in any given game. Power is a (dare I say it) powerful skater, with great recovery ability, who likes nothing more than to tread deep into the offensive zone when the Wolverines have the puck. He reads the play well and has dimensions to his offensive game, making him a multiple threat. He can man the point adroitly, with impressive lateral agility and very good edges aiding in his escapability. But judging Power’s skating ability requires me to note that he is not the type of player to always be moving at 100%. When he needs to let loose defensively, he will. When he doesn’t, he seems to simply conserve energy, drifting within his coverage area. There are some guys who are skating hard but with it looking lackadaisical, but Power isn’t that, as there is a very easily notable difference in his motion and what the effort takes out of him between when he is at top speed and when he is gliding.
So far this delta in intensity and game speed has not hurt him, particularly as he has generally recognized when to go slow and when to hit the gas, but you want to see him trust his legs more often, in that they will lead him and his team to more consistently good things, even if only to keep tighter gaps against the rush and be a bit more threatening in terms of giving up the blueline. My suspicion is that this approach helps him get to his top speed when he needs it most, as it can be taxing to move a frame such as his as well as he can. And make no mistake that his overall skating ability is strong against anyone, much less for his height.
While it takes longer to judge Power’s skating than most prospects, it is actually quite a bit easier to appreciate his high-end puck skills. It affords him the ability to stay calm skating the puck out of his own end. There could be a heavy forecheck all over him, but Power brushes it off easily, and is crossing center ice in a deep breath.
We also see his advanced ability to read the game. He is a wise judge of when to get deep in the offensive end and when to track back. He is trusted to kill penalties and playing the last few minutes of a tight game. He is a master of using his gargantuan reach effectively. I have been very impressed with his knack for stripping the puck from opponents cleanly, without going near the skates or risking a penalty. You can see how he uses his height to scan the ice both with and without the puck, and calculating his best move from that point, and how hard he needs to churn his legs to do so. When he plays rough, it can be quite effective, but in that sense, Power does not fully live up to his name.
Considering his tantalizing package, and near readiness, Owen Power has a good choice to be the number one pick in the 2021 draft and seems unlikely to fall below pick three. He projects as a first pair, minute eating, all-situations blueline staple, with better than even odds of being ready right away.
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Prospects in the News – The Canucks rookie forward is a puck wizard from Bockträsk
2020-21 Rögle BK, SHL 23GP-5G-9A-14PTS
2020-21 Vancouver, NHL, 19GP-3G-4A-7PTS
Nils Hoglander is a special talent who has taken a special journey to the NHL. He has gone his own way, done his thing, and he has succeeded his way into the NHL. He grew up in Bockträsk, a very small community with the population of only 20 people in the far north of Sweden. He has always had to rely on his own passion for the game and never had anything handed to him. He also has had to overcome and live through more adversity than many of us, experiencing trauma when he was 11 when his 13-year-old hockey playing sister tragically died. In an article for Hockeysverige.se it is said that Nils promised to play for them both on her deathbed.
From the start of his hockey career, Nils has travelled between different teams as he got to play with much older players and that helped him to step up early as a teenager. He moved from Bocktrask to Skelleftea, to Timra to Stockholm to Angelholm and now Vancouver. In Sweden players start to get selected to national teams at the U16 level. Hoglander did not make it through the camps onto the first team at U16. He was a standout player even then but played more of an individual game and got snubbed. He is also born in late December, so he was almost a year younger than most players at that time. Later in that season he dominated in the U16 playoffs earning a chance to play for the national team and impressed. A couple of months after that, Nils was playing games at the senior level in Allsvenskan for AIK. He played a fearless and physical game despite being a 15-year-old small sized forward.
Hoglander has always been spectacular with the puck and scores the most beautiful goals. He competes with Andrei Svechnikov in being the world’s best “lacrosse-type” goal scorer. Hoglander also has an impressive balance and is fearless playing in tight traffic and along the boards. In that sense he is not a typical small sized European skilled forward, he is hard-working and intense forward with a lot of puck skills.
In his draft year, he was not picked until the second round with perhaps his height scaring teams off, but I also believe there were question marks concerning his overall hockey sense. It is one thing to dominate the game down low and another thing to drive play for an entire line and to set up a power play. I was among those questioning how well his game would translate to the NHL. I changed my mind when I saw him dominate in the U20 WJC in 19/20. There he was a driving force for Sweden’s top line. Even if his hockey sense is not NHL elite, it is above average.
Another mark against Hoglander is that his SHL numbers have not been particularly impressive. 16 points in 41 games in 19/20 and 14 points in 23 games this season is not impressive for a highly touted NHL prospect. It was clear that Rogle did not use him this season in a way that reflected his talent level. As a matter of fact, Vancouver has given him even more ice time than Rogle did in the SHL. Rogle knew that Hoglander was only there for the short term and gave other players the key roles on the team. So, I think it is fair to say that his lack of high production reflects a lack of elite hockey sense, but also a reflection of usage. In his start with Vancouver, Hoglander has been spectacular at times and has put up decent rookie numbers with seven points in first 18 games. His brave intensive style works well on the small ice at the highest level. Ever since he was a kid he has had to overcome and battle with older and stronger players and that experience has helped him transition to higher levels.
I see Hoglander with a future as a longtime top-six forward role player in the NHL. He probably will not put-up elite level points over time. From time to time, he will make elite level plays and be a highlight machine. His individual puck skills, intensity, strength, and balance are at an absolute elite level. I can also see him being a point per game player in one or two peak seasons but to be that player over the course of a career I believe that you need to be able to drive the play with elite hockey sense as well. That said, he has proven me wrong before.
PAST NBC SPORTS EDGE MCKEEN’S 2021 NHL DRAFT PROSPECT REPORTS – In this weekly column we cover an NHL Draft prospect. Check out what we have written to date here listed by our most recent ranking.
#1 - Matthew Beniers University of Michigan, C, 6’1” 175 lbs
#3 – Luke Hughes – USNTDP U18, D, 6’2” 175 lbs
#4 - Jesper Wallstedt - Lulea, Sweden, G, 6’3” 200lbs
#6 - Brandt Clarke, Nove Zamky, Slovakia, D, 6’1” 180 lbs