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The Owen Energy technology arrives for the Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Owen Energy succeeds or fails in response to his talent to make split-second selections. Like opting for a bag of popcorn over a dashing house run ball at a contemporary Toronto Blue Jays house recreation.

He selected poorly.

“It used to be more or less embarrassing I did not get it,” Energy mentioned.

Energy and his female friend Victoria had been seated in the back of left box when Jays catcher Danny Jansen smacked a pitch over the wall and into the stands.

“I went and were given some popcorn for us,” Energy mentioned. “At the manner down, I used to be strolling into my seats and I heard the bat. I used to be considering there used to be no probability that it involves me. However then impulsively everybody in my segment used to be status with their palms up. I regarded up and noticed a ball coming proper at me. I had the popcorn in a single hand and … neatly, I moreso attempted to save lots of myself than catch it as it used to be coming in lovely immediate.”

Some other fan lunged for the ball ahead of the 6-foot-6 NHL rookie used to be ready to take hold of it. Lovers looking at the sport spotted that Energy used to be within the neighborhood of the ball however did not get a hold of it; Canadian sports activities networks would realize the similar.

“I used to be fortunate it wasn’t proven an excessive amount of,” Energy mentioned.

Alas, the cameras stuck that gaffe however no longer the eventual triumph. In early September, the Energy couple had been again within the stands in Toronto. A ball sailed into the group, as soon as once more headed to their segment. This time, they left with a memento — Victoria stuck it.

“She’s up 1-0 on me,” he mentioned, giggling. “However she used to be mad about it: ‘After all, this one does not get on TV.'”

There might be a variety of cameras excited by Owen Energy this season because the No. 1 general pick out within the 2021 draft embarks on his first complete marketing campaign with the Sabres. His good fortune might be chronicled for what many be expecting might be a Calder Trophy candidacy, however he’s nonetheless a rookie defenseman — and teammate Kyle Okposo mentioned on account of that, Energy’s screw ups may well be intensified.

“Your errors are magnified. As a result of if you are making errors as a defenseman, you are giving up an opportunity,” mentioned Okposo, who’s coming into his sixteenth NHL season. “A large number of occasions on this league, they’ll make you pay for it. As a ahead, if you are making a mistake, a large number of occasions they are up the ice the place you might have other folks again and the ones errors can get lined up. Privately, you pay attention about the ones on video when you find yourself a more youthful ahead. It is not at all times as public as a defenseman. It’s a must to discover ways to be positionally sound as a result of everyone’s so sensible within the NHL.”

It is one thing Energy has already spotted, in spite of having performed most effective 8 video games for the Sabres final season after leaving the College of Michigan.

“You are going from enjoying in opposition to guys that are not as professional or as robust or as sensible as they’re [in the NHL]. You have to play in opposition to the most productive avid gamers on the earth,” he mentioned.

Starting this season, he’s going to.

POWER WAS BORN in 2002 in Mississauga, Ontario. To carbon date this: The Sabres’ main defenseman in reasonable ice time that season used to be Alexei Zhitnik, they usually had been dressed in the pink and black “goat’s head” jersey that is returning this season as an alternative sweater.

It is a glance that predates Energy’s NHL fandom.

“But it surely seems to be cool,” he mentioned.

He grew up competing in a lot of sports activities, together with field lacrosse, the place he received 3 nationwide titles. However hockey received out for Energy. He performed Triple-A hockey in Canada ahead of making the bounce to the USHL’s Chicago Metal in 2018, adopted by means of two seasons with the College of Michigan. The ones Wolverines groups had been notable for his or her intensity of NHL prospect ability, together with Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights), Kent Johnson (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Matty Beniers, who used to be decided on moment general in 2021 by means of the Seattle Kraken.

Energy can have made the bounce to the NHL after his first season at Michigan. The draw of enjoying with that workforce and chasing a countrywide identify proved too robust for him. Energy mentioned he has no regrets for staying at Michigan, although the Wolverines misplaced within the semifinals of the Frozen 4.

“It helped me so much to broaden. Now not most effective as a participant, however as an individual. It used to be the precise resolution and going to be in reality recommended,” he mentioned.

Additionally recommended: Getting an opportunity to constitute Canada on the 2022 Iciness Olympics in Beijing, after the NHL refused to permit its avid gamers to populate the ones rosters because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s have an effect on on its regular-season time table. A few of his Michigan teammates joined him there.

“That used to be an unreal revel in,” mentioned Beniers, who performed for Group USA in Beijing. “With the ability to do that may be a once-in-a-lifetime alternative. Now, making that subsequent step all in combination, is lovely particular.”

Energy mentioned the Olympics helped in making that subsequent step an more uncomplicated one.

“Enjoying in opposition to professionals and being in that surroundings the place there’s a lot at the line,” he mentioned. “It helped us mature a little bit. For me, it is helped me so much.”

Energy jumped to the NHL after that, scoring two targets with an help in 8 video games as a Sabre. That tasks to over 20 targets in a complete season, a complete that most effective 3 rookie defensemen — Brian Leetch (25), Barry Beck (22) and Dion Phaneuf (20) — have hit in NHL historical past.

“I do not know about that,” Energy mentioned. “Expectantly I’m going to be capable of get that many, however who is aware of?”

He used to be glad along with his NHL debut, which gave Buffalo lovers a glimpse on the long run and gave a style {of professional} existence to Energy.

“I believe everybody did a in reality excellent task of creating me really feel at ease. Everybody there used to be in reality welcoming,” Energy mentioned. “However the largest man in that for me used to be Okposo. He in reality helped me. He used to be at all times there after I had questions in regards to the league. He is somebody everybody more or less leans on.”

KYLE OKPOSO HAS noticed so much in his six seasons in Buffalo. 4 coaches. 3 basic managers. The Jack Eichel technology coming and going. 0 playoff video games.

How is he feeling in regards to the Sabres crew that Owen Energy has joined?

“Feeling excellent about it. And it is taken a very long time to get right here,” Okposo mentioned.

Okposo had simply completed a skate in Buffalo and used to be talking from its locker room. As he regarded across the stalls, he noticed just one title that have been with the crew so long as he is been there: ahead Zemgus Girgensons.

“I bear in mind my first yr right here and what sort of hope and optimism I had going into the season. And it is very pleasant for me to peer the potential for the place we are going now,” he mentioned. “That is not to mention that we are there but, as a result of it is a lengthy option to move. However the construction blocks are there.”

Energy is a kind of construction blocks. Like with different younger avid gamers, Okposo felt a accountability to percentage what he is realized.

“He’s a 19-year-old younger guy and primary general pick out. There is other pressures that move along side that, particularly as a defenseman within the NHL,” Okposo mentioned. “I simply sought after to make certain that he feels as at ease as imaginable going into the season. I believe that when you find yourself in a excellent position mentally off the ice, then you are going as a way to carry out your easiest at the ice.”

Off the ice, Energy thinks so much about being at the ice. He is turn into notorious amongst his teammates for looking at copious quantities of video on different defensemen. “Whilst you watch probably the most most sensible guys, you spot issues they do after which put it in [your game]. It is a copycat league. I believe you should be informed and watch,” he mentioned.

His focal point in recent times has been on 3 NHL defensemen specifically, they all Norris Trophy winners: Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators and Adam Fox of the New York Rangers. However there is some other defenseman to whom Okposo likens him, and it is not one normally related to a 6-foot-6 body.

“He is were given a large number of a tender Erik Karlsson in him,” Okposo mentioned. “Now not his overall recreation, however simply how clean he’s. When Erik would do issues, it used to be so fluid. I believe Owen has a equivalent side in how he performs.”

Energy’s skating has been praised all over his adventure to the NHL, time and again by contrast to what is anticipated from a defenseman his measurement. However there is some other side of Energy’s recreation that Okposo loves: his decision-making.

“He is not afraid to make the easy move,” he mentioned. “If you find yourself a tender, professional defenseman and a No. 1 general pick out, you might have these kinds of expectancies on you and there is occasions the place you attempt to make a hard play.”

Okposo’s faculty roommate used to be some other first general pick out defenseman: Erik Johnson, who simply received the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. Okposo remembered giving Johnson a troublesome time when he’d forego the easy play in choose of “at all times seeking to throw some sauce the place it did not want to be” on his passes.

“That is one thing that Owen, he does not do,” the veteran mentioned. “If the onerous play is there and that is the reason his most effective play, then he’s going to make it. But when he is were given a secure choice, he will transfer it there. I believe that is one thing this is distinctive in his recreation. It more or less rings a bell in my memory of anyone like Miro Heiskanen the place he’s going to make the easy play after which he’s going to simply wow you in several spaces.”

HEISKANEN IS PART of a wave of younger NHL defenseman with whom Energy is browsing. Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who received NHL Rookie of the 12 months in 2019-20, and Moritz Seider of the Detroit Crimson Wings, who received it this previous season, also are a part of that wave.

Defensemen have not received the Calder Trophy in consecutive seasons since 1962-64. They have got by no means received it in 3 of 4 seasons. May Owen Energy make historical past?

He chuckled. “I in reality do not suppose an excessive amount of about it. I simply attempt to display up on the rink on a daily basis and check out to get well. See what occurs from there.”

The expectancies are there for Energy, each as a rookie and as a foundational participant for the Sabres. It is not onerous to peer the purpose of demarcation for the franchise: Owen Energy arrives simply as Jack Eichel leaves, having been traded to the Golden Knights final season. One technology yielding to the following in Buffalo.

However Okposo does not see the post-Eichel Sabres as belonging to 1 participant, even though he used to be a primary general pick out. He rattles off names like Rasmus Dahlin, Alex Tuch, Tage Thompson, Peyton Krebs and Dylan Cozens, who will sign up for Energy in this roster.

“I do not know who is going to mark the brand new technology,” Okposo mentioned. “That is the factor about our crew. That is the place the interior pageant goes to return in, and we are all going to push each and every different in a favorable manner.”

Energy mentioned he is able to sign up for that push. “It is an improbable workforce of fellows, and an actual younger workforce,” he mentioned. “I am excited to move in. Simply glad to be part of it.”

It is a fast-arriving alternative for Energy that he does not intend to pass over.

Even supposing he is sporting a bag of popcorn.

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