Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)
Age on Draft Day: 18.37 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6’3, 180 pounds
2018-2019 Stats: 68 GP, 34 G, 50 A, 30 PIM
NHL Central Scouting (North America only): 5th
ISS Hockey: 5th
Bob McKenzie: 5th
Craig Button: 6th
In a draft top-heavy with centers, Dylan Cozens is one of the most intriguing on a visceral level.
Despite his size and position, Cozens is an elite skater. He generates incredible momentum when streaking through the neutral zone. Whereas I noted that acceleration was a major problem for seventh-ranked prospect Kirby Dach, that’s a strength for Cozens. There is virtually no lag in his first few strides from a standstill position. What’s more, his crossovers — both forwards and backward -- are flawless, and he is a major threat to carry the puck through from the outside lane into the middle because he can turn a corner so quickly.
He is a top-notch defensive center, and the skating is a big part of that. He has long strides that quickly eat up ice, making him a great backchecker.
More prominently, his skating allows him to be an excellent penalty killer. He has that Grabner-like ability to pressure the points in the flash and cause turnovers; sometimes even shorthanded transition chances.
Though he is a decent passer, he actually goes against the grain of a typical center and takes the role of a shooter. His wheels come in handy on transition plays, which he often buries. One thing Cozens does well is get shots off from the middle, which is not easy. Defending teams typically protect those areas and swarm the puck when it moves into the slot, so there’s not much space. Cozens does well to find the soft spots and release quickly. He’s also very skillful in finding loose pucks and rebounds amidst chaos.
Cozens is not a particularly creative player. He beats defenders on rushes with a smooth outside-to-inside move, but he’s mostly a north-to-south center. He isn’t a great stickhandler and his vision is just average. I also think he plays smaller than his size at times, leading him to be shrugged off the puck too easily. The upside here is that, at 180 pounds, there is ample room for growth on his 6’3 frame.
But overall, Cozens often leaves me wanting more. Let me stress that he’s a damn good hockey player who plays with determination. But given his physical gifts — the size, the skating, the scoring ability — I kept waiting to see him dominate a game or even a shift. It’s possible I simply caught the wrong games, but it never manifested at both the WHL and U18 international levels. He may just lack that quality to take over the ice at a given moment.
Cozens has a lot of tools and is physically mature for his age. I don’t think it will be very long before he’s in the NHL and he’s going to have a long career as a two-way pivot. And I imagine that whichever team drafts Cozens will be crossing its fingers that he can mimic the career of Ryan Getzlaf.
But will he find that extra gear that will solidify him as a No. 1 center? That’s a big unknown. The potential is there. As I alluded to in the Dach profile, it was an extremely close call between Dach and Cozens, and he is a defendable selection as high as third overall. There’s little doubt that he’s going to be off the board by the time the top-10 is complete, and whoever drafts Cozens is getting an abnormally talented center with a lot of physical tools that inherently give him an edge over so many other players.
What Others Have Said
“Very much a complimentary guy at the next level more than being skilled enough to drive things. But he’s big and very mobile. Good defensively. Intelligent.”
- WHL Scout, to Blueshirt Banter
“(Cozens) just lets his game do the talking and even though he’s found a lot of success early in his career, you would never know it by the way he works off the ice. He is always focused on getting better. Just a kid who loves to play and loves to get better and wants to be the best.”
- Lethbridge Hurricanes Head Coach Brent Kisio, via Global News