Dylan Cozens

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Sabres return top prospect Cozens to Lethbridge of WHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres have returned their top prospect Dylan Cozens to his Canadian junior team.

The rookie first-round draft pick was assigned to Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League on Thursday after the 18-year-old center had no points in three preseason games with Buffalo.

Cozens was selected with the seventh overall pick in the draft in June, and became the first player from Canada’s Yukon Territory to be chosen in the first round. He scored 34 goals and had a Lethbridge-leading 84 points in 68 games last year.

The Sabres close the preseason at Pittsburgh on Saturday before returning to opening the regular season there on Thursday.

NHL Power Rankings: 10 most exciting rookies for 2019-20 season

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings we continue to get you ready for the start of the 2019-20 season by looking ahead to some of the most exciting rookies in the league this season.

Included among them are the top two picks from the 2019 NHL draft class, a potentially overlooked New York Rangers prospect, and some key young players that could play big roles on contenders.

To the rankings!

1. Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers. The highlight of a wildly successful offseason in Manhattan was the Rangers moving up to the No. 2 overall pick in the draft lottery and winning the opportunity to select Kakko. He has been a highlight reel at every stage of his development and is the most fascinating rookie in this year’s class. He has NHL size, incredible skill, and pretty much everything an NHL team could want in a potential franchise player. The Rangers added a ton of talent to their roster this summer and Kakko might be the most important long-term piece to join the team during this rebuild. You need superstars to win, and Kakko has that potential.

2. Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils. Just like their arch-rivals, the Devils had a huge offseason that saw them hit the jackpot in the draft lottery to to win their second No. 1 overall pick in three years. Hughes scored two goals in his preseason debut and is going to enter the season as one of the Calder Trophy favorites. The fierce rivalry between the Rangers and Devils, as well as the fact the Rangers took Kakko No. 2 overall, is going to be a great subplot to their careers and development.

3. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche. He was a late addition to the Avalanche’s postseason roster last spring and made an immediate impact. The Avalanche did not really shelter him much, and with Tyson Barrie having finally been traded after years of rumors they are going to have to lean heavily on Makar and Samuel Girard to play huge roles on their blue line.

4. Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers. Lost in all of the Kakko hype is that the Rangers’ have another top prospect ready to make his NHL debut this season. Kravtsov has spent the past three seasons playing in the KHL and more than held his own as a teenager, finishing the 2018-19 season as the third-leading scorer on his team. With him and Kappo making their NHL debuts this season there is plenty of reason for Rangers fans to be excited about their future.

5. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks. Even though the Canucks haven’t had any draft lottery luck over the past four years they have still managed to pick some franchise cornerstones with their top picks. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson already look like stars at forward, and now they get to see what Hughes can do on the blue line over a full season. He doesn’t have great size, but he has a ton of skill and has top-pairing potential. For a team that desperately needs a young impact player on defense, Hughes is going to be an important part of the Canucks’ rebuild.

6. Sam Steel, Anaheim Ducks. Even though he played 22 games in the NHL a year ago, Steel will still barely qualify as a rookie this season (the cut off is 25 games before the current season). He showed a ton of potential last year with 41 points in 53 games in the AHL, while also scoring six goals in his first brief taste of the NHL. With Corey Perry gone and Ryan Kesler out for the season the Ducks need their young players to take a big step, and Steel should be the one capable of making the biggest impact.

7. Ryan Poehling, Montreal Canadiens. After spending three years at St. Cloud, the 2017 first-round pick had a chance to play one game at the NHL level last year and it could not have gone any better for him, scoring three goals including the game-winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He figures to play a big role for the Canadiens this season and alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi gives the Canadiens two promising young forwards to build around.

8. Alexandre Texier, Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets have high hopes for Texier and they are going to need him to him to produce after the team said goodbye to Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel this summer. He never looked out of place a year ago, scoring three goals in his first 10 games (including two goals in eight playoff games).

9. Martin Necas, Carolina Hurricanes. While most of the attention in Carolina gets focussed on the quality and depth of their defense, they are quietly assembling quite a collection of forwards as well. Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Nino Neiderreiter are all already outstanding players, while Andrei Svechnikov looks like he is on track to be a star. This year they should add another young piece to that core with Necas. He had a great year in the AHL (his first full season of pro hockey in North America) and is just another outstanding young player in an organization that is already full of them.

10. Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres. One of the players from the 2019 draft class after the top-two that has a real chance to stick in the NHL this season. That is still not a given at this point (and probably the biggest reason he is not higher on the list) but he has had a strong showing in camp and is giving the Sabres plenty of reasons to give him a look into the regular season. He still has junior eligibility, but the Sabres aren’t exactly loaded up front and would be an intriguing addition to alongside Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner.

Honorable mentions: Filip Zadina (Detroit Red Wings); Evan Bouchard (Edmonton Oilers); Owen Tippett (Florida Panthers); Eeli Tolvanen (Nashville Predators); Erik Brannstrom (Ottawa Senators).

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Sabres top pick Dylan Cozens needs thumb ‘procedure’

WKBW
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres top draft pick Dylan Cozens needs a ”procedure” to repair an injured left thumb.

The Sabres provided the update Tuesday, a day after Cozens was scheduled to visit a specialist. Cozens will have the procedure Wednesday.

He was hurt Saturday during a three-on-three scrimmage on the final day of the Sabres’ developmental camp. A video showed Cozens leaving the ice with his thumb appearing dislocated.

Afterward, the Canadian said he was confident his thumb wasn’t broken.

The 18-year-old center was selected with the No. 7 pick in the draft last month.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Sabres first-round pick sustains nasty hand injury

ABC7
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A week ago, Dylan Cozens was the first Yukon-born player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.

A week later, he’s the first Yukon-born player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft who also received a nasty hand injury during his team’s ensuing development camp.

Taken seventh overall by Jason Botterill and the Buffalo Sabres, Cozens represents a key piece to the Sabres future. At the moment, however, his immediate future holds some rehabilitation to his left hand.

According to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, Cozens picked up the injury after assisting on a goal by another Sabres prospect. He was upended on the play and, well, here’s the aftermath.

Thumbs are not supposed to look like that. Fortunately for Cozens and the Sabres, it’s not broken.

“It’s good,” Cozens said via Buffalo Hockey Beat. “I saw the videos and stuff. I think it looked a lot worse than it really was. I’m seeing a specialist Monday. Right when it happened, I wanted to right back out there.”

MORE SABRES:

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.

NHL Draft: Dylan Cozens eager to make Yukon hockey history

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VANCOUVER — Dylan Cozens’ trip to Vancouver for the 2019 NHL Draft wasn’t a long one from his home in Whitehorse, Yukon a city in northwestern Canada. A quick two-hour flight brought him to where he will take the next step in hockey career.

His journey to get to this stage, and so close to the NHL, was a longer one.

Coming from Whitehorse, the only city in the Yukon, which has a population of about 25,000, there wasn’t a large youth hockey program in the area. Cozens played a lot against older competition and at age 12, he began playing in a league against grown men. It was during that time his career took a different turn.

In one of those games, Cozens was chasing down a puck when an opponent who was double his weight fell and took him out. Both players crashed into the boards, but it was Cozens who came out of it with a broken leg. While on the mend, he came to the conclusion that he needed to go elsewhere and play against players his own age in order to advance his hockey career.

“It was definitely really tough on me and my family, being so young and leaving them behind and moving down to the bigger city was different but we knew it was necessary for me if I wanted to chase my dreams and goals,” Cozens said. “It was my WHL draft year so I wanted to get some exposure for myself. I definitely wouldn’t change that path at all.”

The move took him to Langley, British Columbia where he joined the Delta Hockey Academy at age 14, staying with a billet family.

Being away from home didn’t affect Cozens as he put all of his focus into improving his game. After two years in British Columbia he was drafted by the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes. His play saw him finish top-five on the team in points in 2017-18 (53) and then lead the group this past season (84). NHL Central Scouting ranked him fifth among North American skaters.

[Rotoworld’s 2019 Mock Draft]

When Cozens hears his name called on Friday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; livestream) , he’ll make history by being the first ever first-round selection from the Yukon. The area has only produced three NHL players: Bryon Baltimore, Jarrett Dueling, and Peter Sturgeon. The 18-year-old, who compares his game to that of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews due to their two-way play, is proud to hopefully one day become the fourth.

“It’s been a long time, for sure,” he said. “Those guys didn’t play too many games. But I want to be that guy who paves the path for the Yukon and gets some exposure for that city and show that players can come from anywhere.”

Cozens has the support of his hometown and still can’t get over when kids come up to him to talk hockey or ask for an autograph or photo.

“I don’t see myself as that special, I see myself as another kid,” he said. “To them, they look up to me and I want to give back to them. These are the people that supported me and people that have helped me get where I am, too.”

The pressures of excelling in his draft year didn’t affect Cozens. Through working with a mental coach and learning how to block out the pressure and outside noise allowed him to enjoy his season, which saw the Hurricanes reach the third round of the WHL playoffs.

Wherever he’s selected, Cozens is ready to do anything to achieve his NHL dream. He’s willing to spend the summer in the city of his new team to better his development, and while he sees himself as a center at 6-foot-3, 183 lbs., he’s open to playing on the wing if that’s what the team wants.

Cozens has literally come a long way to make his NHL dreams a reality. This weekend he’ll take that next step while not forgetting how he got here.

“I had to work really hard to get where I am today,” he said. “It’s taught me that if I want something, I have to work for it and to never give up and always believe. Lots of people told me it wasn’t realistic to play in the NHL coming from there. I didn’t listen to them and always saw it as a dream of mine. I think I’m getting closer to that dream every day.”

NBC Sports presents live, exclusive coverage of first round of the 2019 NHL Draft this Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

MORE 2019 NHL DRAFT COVERAGE:
Jack Hughes and the impact of USA Hockey
Kakko ready to make NHL leap next season

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.