No player up for the 2019 NHL draft has a better story following them then Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Cozens hails from Whitehorse of the Yukon Territory. For those not familiar with Cozens’ home province, it is a remote area of Western Canada, with the closest NHL club being a 23 hour drive away. Only two NHL players have ever come from this region, the last one being in 1954.
Cozens journey to becoming a top NHL prospect is remarkable. He’ll be the first Yukon-born player to ever be selected in the first round of the NHL draft, and for good reason. Cozens is a freak of nature, being one of the best skaters in a 6’3” body I’ve ever seen. He can play both a power and finesse game because of how gifted he is skillfully and physically. He is a unique specimen that brings elements that no one else does from this draft class. If he puts it all together, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him one day become the most impactful player selected from this draft.
|Birthday||February 9, 2001|
Skating: 65 – Puck Skills: 55 – Hockey IQ/Sense: 60 – Physicality: 65
I must start by talking about Cozens skating. I am simply left speechless watching this monster gracefully stride down the ice. Players his size shouldn’t be able to move the way he does. His stride is nothing short of beautiful, and his speed is threatening. No player in this draft is as scary to defend — because when he gets going he is near unstoppable. While I ranked him as the third best skater in the draft, I’d rather take my chances dealing with Jack Hughes or Alex Newhook. Cozens size and speed combination allows him to either beat you wide or run you right over — it just depends on which one he is feeling.
I am NOT comparing the two players, but I get a Mario Lemieux vibe from watching Cozens (please don’t send me angry tweets).
Good luck knocking him off the puck. Cozens’ large frame and strength make him a force that is next to impossible to slow down. He is too big and too shifty to contain. I can only imagine what he’ll do when he adds more muscle and fills out. He is literally going to bully players out on the ice.
Cozens size and skating combination truly make him unique. There is a pleasant balance of grace and power in his game.
But he isn’t just a one-trick pony. Cozens has the tools and smarts to make plays and dominate any given shift. I know there is some questions about his hockey sense from the general viewer, but I am here to turn those beliefs down. My main guess as to why this thought became shared is because Cozens had some brutal games that were nationally televised. Obviously, you don’t want to make excuses for potential top-5 picks, but when looking at the bigger picture he displayed strong hockey IQ. Inconsistency did factor into his season, which plays a role in his rough performances, but it wasn’t to an extent that I am overly worried about.
If you’re drafting Cozens it’s for his highs, not the lows. When he is on, he is ON. Cozens can be a controlling presence from the center of the ice because of how demanding he is for the puck. His play away from the puck still needs work, but when he has it on his stick the image is terrifying. Imagine a brick wall coming full speed at you. Oh, and that brick wall has sneaky good puck skills and a powerful shot.
The one area Cozens does need to improve on is his playmaking ability. Much of his dominate sequences involve him playing a selfish style. He grips his stick a little tight for my liking and is just restricting the potential plays at hand. He focuses too much on what he can do with the puck, rather than look for other options. I think he has untapped potential as a playmaker, but it comes down to if he recognizes those opportunities.
The upside with Cozens is enormous because of his rare skill-set in a big body. He projects to be a star top-line center who can play all-situations and score 25 plus goals annually. For now, he falls down to 6 on my board because he fails to match the playmaking ability of those above him. But if he figures it all out, the outcome could be scary. Cozens can be a major difference maker.
While the idea of Cozens sticking in the NHL next season isn’t too far-fetched, I believe he stills needs another year in the WHL. His raw upside is so outrageously high that going back for one more season would benefit him greatly. He is physically mature enough to stick in the NHL, but his growth as a player is the deciding factor.
He’s better off perfecting his craft, rather than playing a marginal role for an NHL team next season. Even if it means he will for sure dominate the junior league. But that’s not to say there is nothing for him to gain. Adapting his play style to incorporate more playmaking and improving away from the puck are two areas he could serve to put work into.