For a player in the middle of his 17-year-old season in the WHL, Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes has already played in a lot of big games. He played in 12 WHL playoff games in his 15-year-old season and 16 last year. He also played in key roles for those teams that advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference final.
Despite his young age, Cozens produced.
He had eight points in the 2016-17 playoffs and added 13 last year.
So it should not be surprising that Cozens is not a guy who lets nerves get to him.
Cozens played again as one of the younger guys on the ice this week at the CIBC Canada-Russia Series and again he produced, scoring a goal in the first game, a 2-1 WHL win over the select team from Russia.
“I don’t really get nervous before games. It’s the same game I’ve played my whole life. There were a few other underage guys out there so we are all pretty close. It’s definitely a different style of game – playing against the Russians but they played hard and well,” Cozens said.
Cozens got another new experience getting to play against a team of Russians, with most of them being a couple years older than him.
“All the guys on that team are older guys and they play tough. They are from a different country so that is a lot different as well.”
Cozens was not the only Hurricanes forward on the ice, as the reigning WHL Rookie of the Year was joined by Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Jordy Bellerive. Cozens’ teammate scored the game-winner.
“We are really close so it was great to have him score as well.”
Cozens won gold for Hockey Canada at the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Tournament this summer. He had two goals and three assists for five points. He played well enough that Hockey Canada wanted him to play for Team WHL and try to earn an invite to their World Junior Hockey Championship training camp this December.
“It is awesome. Anytime you get a chance to compete and wear the Canadian logo is great. I was trying to prove myself and prove that I deserve a spot on the team. I know I have to work really hard to do that.”
His head coach for Team WHL and also the head coach for the 2019 U20 Canadian team, Tim Hunter was impressed.
“I know Dylan really well. I coached against him with Moose Jaw, he played in the Western League last year, so I saw a lot of him last year and saw his development. Brett Kisio is on our staff and he’s really familiar with him. I actually played hockey for his grandfather, so I know the family really well. Nothing escapes me about Cozens. I know all about him and I know how great of a player he’s going to be in the future,” Hunter said.
Cozens has had a different path than a lot of his teammates who hail from the suburbs of cities like Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Cozens comes from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.
“There was not too much competition up there. The rec teams always play in the house leagues. I had to move away when I was only 14 years old and that helped me a lot.”
After some time with the Delta Hockey Academy and Yale Hockey Academy, Cozens found himself being counted on in the playoffs for Lethbridge.
“I played with a lot of guys who were way older than me. I learned a lot and they showed me what I needed to do to get my body ready every day.”
The “A” ranked prospect by NHL Central Scouting has excelled every time he has been put in those positions. If he keeps this up, he could very well end up playing against older players at a higher level soon enough.
(Thank you to Tyler Lowey for conducting the interview at the CIBC CHL Canada Russia Series game held in Kamloops, B.C.)