Dylan Cozens has had a busy couple of months.
The Whitehorse-born forward was named WHL rookie of the year, won gold with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in August, has started the WHL season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes with 10 points in four games — including a hat trick against Regina — and was named as a first-round draft pick candidate by NHL Central Scouting in its October Players to Watch list.
Cozens said playing for Canada helped kick start his campaign.
“Most guys don’t really get to play any hockey in the summer, so I think I have a little advantage there,” said Cozens in an interview with the News. “I’ve already gotten back into hockey a little bit and that helps a lot.”
He’s currently second in WHL scoring, behind Red Deer Rebels winger Brandon Hagel with 13 points in six games.
“I’m pretty happy with my start so far, but it’s a long season,” said Cozens. “A lot of things will change, so I’m just looking to be consistent throughout the whole season.”
Cozens said winning gold with Team Canada was a special feeling.
“The experience (in Edmonton) was just an unbelievable experience getting to play on home ice in front of all those fans. To wear the Canadian jersey is just amazing and to win gold was unbelievable.”
With the lead up to the tournament, Cozens didn’t have as much of an offseason as some of his Lethbridge teammates — he said he took a couple weeks off after the Hurricanes were eliminated from the playoffs.
“I took two weeks off there to just take a little break from hockey and rest my body a little bit because it’s a long season,” said Cozens. “Other than that, I didn’t really have too much time off. I was training every day, skating almost every day and working hard all summer.”
The hard work certainly seems to have paid off, with Central Scouting tentatively slotting him in the first round and some national sports media personalities naming him a potential number two pick. Cozens though, said his focus is on taking the season one shift at a time.
“It’s a nice feeling being recognized as (a first round candidate) right now, but there is still a long ways to the draft and a lot of things will change,” said Cozens. “I’ve just got to focus on myself and not worry about those lists and not worry about the pressure that comes with them, just blocking them out every time I step on the ice and playing my game and doing my best to reach my full potential.”
The goal this season, said Cozens, is to help the Hurricanes.
“Obviously, I want to help my team win a Memorial Cup — that’s the biggest thing,” said Cozens. “When things aren’t going good for me, I want to be able to just deal with it and not get sucked into deeper things. Just focus on myself and live in the present. … If I have a bad shift, just forgetting about it and moving forward.”
Although Cozens hasn’t played for a Yukon-based team in a number of years, he credits his early development to growing up in Whitehorse and his family.
“Skating on my backyard rink ever since I was a little kid was definitely a huge part of it,” said Cozens. “I credit that a lot and thank my dad for doing that for me. (Whitehorse) is where I grew up playing hockey and that turned me into the player I am right now. Definitely lots of credit there.”
These days Cozens doesn’t spend much time in Whitehorse — just a trip home at Christmas and some time in the summer — but it’s clear it is still a special place.
“I love it there and all the memories I have,” said Cozens. “When I go back at Christmas, I just go out and skate on my backyard rink again. It’s just amazing and I love it so much.”
The Hurricanes are off to a 2-2 start this season, sitting third in the central division.
Cozens and the team are in action against Prince Albert on Oct. 5 and Saskatoon on Oct. 6.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org