Power boards with Sabers; Michigan Exodus to NHL Begins

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The exodus from Michigan is underway. Less than 24 hours after the loaded Wolverines from the Frozen…

The exodus from Michigan is underway.

Less than 24 hours after the loaded Wolverines were knocked out of the Frozen Four, short of a national title, some of the top players advanced to their next goal in the National Hockey League.

Top pick Owen Power signed with the Buffalo Sabers, and fellow Canadian Olympian Kent Johnson signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets on Friday. Michigan captain Nick Blankenburg joins Johnson in Columbus after signing a one-year deal.

U.S. Olympians Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson may not be too far behind in the wake of Michigan’s loss to Denver in the NCAA semifinals.

Power could make his NHL debut in days. More than a point-a-game player for Michigan, the 6-foot-6, 214-pound defenseman will gain some valuable professional experience by joining the Sabers for the remainder of the season.

Johnson and Blankenburg are expected to join their new team on Monday and can also join the lineup right away.

Blankenburg was a free agent, while Johnson was the fifth-choice in the 2021 draft. The skilled 19-year-old forward had 17 goals and 47 assists in his final college season and had five points in four games in the 2022 Olympics representing Canada .

“Kent Johnson is a remarkable young man, both on and off the ice,” said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. “He is a highly skilled and creative player who can pull you out of your seat whenever he is on the ice. We are delighted to see him take the next step in his career and look forward to his growth and contributions (with the Blue Jackets) for the next few years.”

There are equally high hopes for Beniers and Brisson, who played for the US at the Olympics on a team that included more than a dozen college players. Beniers was able to quickly join the expansion Seattle Kraken after taking him in second in the draft, while Brisson was picked by Vegas in the first round in 2020.

Goalkeeper Erik Portillo (Buffalo), defenders Luke Hughes and Ethan Edwards (New Jersey) and Jacob Truscott (Vancouver), forwards Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose), John Beecher (Boston), Eric Ciccolini (New York Rangers), Mackie Samoskevich (Florida ) and Dylan Duke (Tampa Bay) are the other Michigan players with rights already owned by NHL clubs.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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