It’s a rare thing for a Western Hockey League (WHL) team to rely heavily on a rookie, but Dylan Cozens is a pretty special player.
This season, the 16-year-old Lethbridge Hurricanes forward impressed junior hockey staff across the country so much, he earned a spot on Team Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
At the tournament, Cozens continued to show he’s one of the world’s best players in his age group, finishing eighth in tournament scoring with seven points in six games. He helped guide Canada to a silver medal, his squad dropping the gold medal game 6-4 to the United States. Donning the red and white uniform was a dream moment says the Whitehorse, Yukon native.
“It’s really special seeing all the kids there coming to watch you realizing I was like that one day,” Cozens said. “Throwing on the (Canada) jersey is something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life and I hope to do it more in the future.”
Cozens burst onto the scene as a call-up with the Hurricanes in the playoffs last season, putting up eight points in 12 games. It’s that clutch performance that gave ‘Canes coach Brent Kisio confidence his young forward could be a major contributor this year.
“You saw it last year when he came in at 15. He tied that Game 7 (against Medicine Hat) up late, you just don’t see that from a 15-year-old,” Kisio said. “He was on the ice with two-and-a-half minutes to go, you don’t see that either. He does some special things.”
This season, Cozens is off to a torrid start, putting up 13 points in 13 games. It’s a pace rarely seen by rookies in the WHL. Since 2000, only one 16-year-old has topped the 50-point plateau. Zach Boychuk hit 51 in 2005-06.
“He trades the puck with good players and takes the shot at the right time,” Hurricanes general manager Peter Anholt said. “He is just flat out a hockey player. He has great hockey sense, just a great awareness on the ice. He also wins one-on-one battles which I think is really impressive for a 16-year-old.”
He’s already good and when he fills out into his 6’3” frame, he’ll be even more dangerous.
While Cozens’ general manager appreciates his skill on the ice, it’s his approach and attitude he loves the most.
“He’s very respectful of the process. He just keeps going about his business. There’s no sense of entitlement whatsoever,” Anholt said. “That’s really refreshing in this day and age where there can be lots. That’s a really nice part about Dylan.”
Just how valuable is Cozens to the Hurricanes? Well, maybe his head coach said it best when asked if he’s happy to have the teen back after his stint at the U-17s.
“Obviously we missed him, we haven’t won since he’s been gone.”
Cozens and the Hurricanes will look to end a six-game losing streak when they play the Kelowna Rockets on Friday.