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Sabres stuff: Eichel’s emoji, Power likely to return to Michigan


UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - MARCH 07: Casey Cizikas #53 of the New York Islanders (l) celebrates his goal against Jack Eichel #9 and the Buffalo Sabres at 16:56 of the second period as he is joined by Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 (r) at the Nassau Coliseum on March 07, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Two very different bits of Buffalo Sabres news are worth touching on from Thursday. One involves a mysterious Jack Eichel emoji tweet, while the other revolves around Owen Power’s short-term future.

Report: Top pick Owen Power likely to return to Michigan this season

Reporters, including the Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski, indicate that 2021 top pick Owen Power will return to Michigan in 2021-22, rather than jumping right to the NHL with the Sabres.

On one hand, it’s been a while since the first pick of an NHL Draft didn’t jump immediately to the top level. You need to go all the way back to 2006, when Erik Johnson didn’t debut for the Blues after going first overall.

(The Sabres have to hope that Owen Power doesn’t get surpassed by other picks in the same dramatic way Johnson did. As you may recall, Johnson was selected ahead of Jonathan Toews [third overall], Nicklas Backstrom [fourth], and Phil Kessel [fifth]. We’d needle the Blues about Claude Giroux [22nd], too, if Bobby Clarke didn’t forget his name.)

While this is unusual, Owen Power’s decision to return to Michigan makes a lot of sense. Consider a few talking points:

  • Generally speaking, defensemen take more time to acclimate to the NHL game. By staying in Michigan, Power can refine his game.
  • The consensus is that Power probably wouldn’t be an immediately productive defensemen, offensively, in a way that Rasmus Dahlin, Cale Makar, and Quinn Hughes have been. Power can build that scoring confidence with another season at Michigan (theoretically, at least).
  • This time around, the Sabres aren’t really even talking themselves into thinking they’ll be competitive. Why expose Power to the sort of atmosphere that sucked the joy out of hockey life for the likes of Ryan O’Reilly?
  • Rather than wasting a year from his rookie deal, the Sabres might take better advantage of Power’s entry-level contract by starting to burn seasons off of it later.
  • Frankly, other NHL teams might have been better off not burning off ELC years. Did Nail Yakupov get rushed? Both Alexis Lafreniere and Jack Hughes struggled enough to at least inspire questions, even if saving their ELC years wasn’t necessarily realistic, PR-wise.

So ... this seems like a wise idea. If Power’s ultimate choice defies reports of returning to Michigan, it will be noted on PHT.

Eichel emoji enigma

Still-quite-new to Twitter, Jack Eichel left people buzzing by tweeting a simple emoji on Thursday:

The open-ended nature of Eichel’s emoji tweet inspired plenty of questions. Was this Eichel expressing dismay at his unresolved surgery and/or trade situation with the Sabres? Were specific rumored trade destinations leaving him uneasy?

Naturally, the simplicity of that Eichel emoji tweet allowed people to make plenty of jokes.

Specifically, there were a lot of Flames - Eichel jokes(?) following the emoji tweet.

Hopefully Eichel’s having some fun on Twitter, and people are having fun with (at?) him. Because it can’t be enjoyable for Eichel to sit idly by without a Sabres trade, especially with a surgery choice possibly dictating how he approaches his offseason.

Almost makes you want to add a cringe emoji to the mix.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.