The Yukon, Canada’s northernmost province, has not produced an NHL player since the 1980’s nor one that has played in ten or more NHL games. Dylan Cozens stands to change that as a top-five center prospect and one of the most well-regarded skaters in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Cozens led the Lethbridge Hurricanes to the Western Hockey League (WHL) playoffs, where the Hurricanes lost in seven games to the Calgary Hitmen in the first round. Cozens had the most points by a player in his draft class in the regular season in the WHL with 84 points in 68 games. That was tied for 10th among all WHL players.
Before that, though, Cozens was nearly a point per game in his rookie season in the WHL, scoring 53 points in 57 games. In his age 16 season, Cozens was brought in for 12 playoff games, and scored eight points. That’s the second-most by a WHL player under 16, as Brayden Point scored 10.
The biggest thing about Cozens, as multiple draft analysts have said, is he’s one of the finest skaters in the draft. He has size, speed and the ability to change directions quickly. All the things necessary to compete in today’s game with forwards like Connor McDavid and Dylan Larkin (and in his own draft class, Jack Hughes), Cozens has. That allows him to be an excellent transition player and someone who can both backcheck and forecheck efficiently.
Cozens’ size complements his skating, especially in one-on-one battles against defenders. He can use his edge work, height and acceleration to protect the puck and drive wide on a defending player. If he loses the puck or makes a pass, he can rapidly transition into a backcheck or find better positioning before the defender can react.
There’s also Cozens’ excellent shot, as it’s both accurate and strong, and Cozens isn’t afraid to shoot. While Cozens doesn’t have the most skill or vision in the draft, his ability to create plays off the rush and from around the net set him apart. That’s what led to those 84 points in his draft year, including 34 goals.
Cozens’ downfalls are definitive downfalls, however. His vision and passing have him ranging anywhere from the fifth-best North American skater according to the NHL’s Central Scouting to No. 14 by TSN’s Craig Button.
Still, Cozens is a very impressive driver of offense and someone, who, paired with a speedy winger and a playmaker, could create one of the most lethal lines off the rush, against whom teams would have to seriously step up the speed and gap control of their defense. What remains to be seen is whether the Blackhawks have the wings necessary to keep up with Cozens.
Age: 18 (Feb. 9, 2001)
Hometown: Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Weight: 183 pounds
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes
NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 5 North American skater
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 7
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 7
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 9
Craig Button (TSN): No. 14
Bob McKenzie (TSN): No. 5
Cozens projects to be a first-line player, somebody capable of putting up a good number of points.
Expected first season: 2020-21
Expected entry position: third-line center/right wing
Expected potential position: first line center