The sky is the limit when it comes to Lethbridge Hurricanes centre Dylan Cozens.
Returning to the Hurricanes lineup after earning an extended look at training camp with the Buffalo Sabres, the dynamic pivot has continued to impress this season in collecting a team-leading 42 points counting 19 goals and 23 assists across 28 appearances, making the native of Whitehorse, Yukon a prime candidate to earn a spot with Team Canada at the upcoming 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Ahead of the annual classic, Cozens sat down with Junior Hockey Magazine to discuss his play this season, what it would mean to star under the national spotlight, as well as his message to the next wave of up-and-comers who like him hail from small corners of the hockey world:
Junior Hockey Magazine: What are your thoughts as you’re waiting to hear the call from Team Canada?
Dylan Cozens: I feel pretty good about it. I feel confident right now but obviously you never know. I am excited for it. I’ve dreamed of playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors so it’s an opportunity of a lifetime and I hope to take advantage of it.
JHM: How important was it for you to get to know some of these guys at the CIBC Canada Russia Series that you’ll be playing with at the World Juniors?
DC: Going to the Summer Showcase and meeting all the guys from the ‘Q’ and the ‘O’ and hanging out with them, it was nice to meet them even if I wasn’t playing. That was huge just going out there for a couple days. At the Canada Russia Series, I already knew most of the guys who were on that team but just becoming closer with them and getting to know more about them was really good.
JHM: You’re on fire this year – 42 points in 28 games. Talk to me about your game right now.
DC: I think the biggest thing is just trying to stay at an NHL level. I know when I came back after the preseason games I played with Buffalo, they told me the biggest thing was to keep that NHL speed and make everybody else play to my level. I have been trying to do that. There were a couple of games where I had gotten away from it but I just want to go out every night and play to that NHL speed and play to that NHL intensity and make everybody else play to my level. I think the last couple of games I have done that and it’s helped me.
JHM: Give me an idea of what it was like to play three preseason games with the Sabres.
DC: It was an unreal experience, just being on the ice with guys who you have watched growing up, then playing against and taking face-offs against guys, it was a little surreal. Hopefully it’s just the beginning and hopefully there is going to be a lot more of that in the future.
JHM: Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he’s excited about coaching you again in the near future. What’s that like to hear him say ‘near future’ and not somewhere down the road?
DC: It’s obviously nice to hear that, but I still have to show up, I have to perform, finish this season good here, and then show up to camp ready to go. Obviously it’s nice to hear that but there is still a lot of work to be done.
JHM: You were the first-ever player born in Yukon to be drafted in the opening round of the NHL Draft. What did that milestone mean to you personally and what do you think it means to other players who are growing up in smaller areas to give them the hope to do what you have done?
DC: It meant so much to me. For all the things that my parents have sacrificed for me, and letting me move away at such a young age, it meant a lot and it showed that in that it really paid off. I owe so much to them. They have always believed in me and given me every chance to succeed. I think it shows that you can come from anywhere. All it takes is hard work. If you are a good hockey player, scouts will find you. I think the biggest thing is just believing and working as hard as you can so that it can come true.
JHM: You were with Team Canada as part of the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. A lot of the players on that roster are projected to play on this year’s World Junior team. How special would it be for you to represent Canada again and at this level?
DC: It would be so special. I remember being a kid and watching the World Juniors during Christmas and always thinking that I wanted to be a part of that. Now that I am there and I am trying out, I don’t even know how to explain it. It would be a great honour and something that I would remember for my whole life.