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Sabres Power up; select Michigan defenseman 1st in NHL draft

The Buffalo Sabres selected University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday night.

On a day the Sabres traded Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, general manager Kevyn Adams continued his offseason bid to overhaul a struggling franchise by choosing the stalwart defenseman’s heir apparent.

Power is listed at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.

From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.

Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenseman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.

Power and Dahlin have similar two-way, play-making skills, and will have the opportunity to form the backbone of a retooled defensive unit for years to come.

The Sabres made a splash earlier by adding a second first-round pick, 14th overall, and defenseman Robert Hagg in dealing Ristolainen to Philadelphia.

The trade is part of Adams’ bid to rebuild through youth after Buffalo finished last in the overall standings for a fourth time in eight seasons and extended its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th year.

The acquired pick from Philadelphia is actually 13th in the draft order after the NHL stripped the Arizona Coyotes of their first-round pick, 11th overall, for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy.

The Coyotes, however, moved back into the first round by acquiring the Canucks’ pick, ninth overall, in a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.

The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman announcing the selections from the NHL Network studios in New Jersey.

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