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Dylan Cozens logs assist in WHL debut

It didn’t take long for Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens to make his mark with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

It didn’t take long for Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens to make his mark with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Cozens, who was selected first-round in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft, notched an assist in a preseason game that marked his WHL debut on Friday.

It was the highest level of hockey he’s played, said the 15-year-old.

“It’s definitely a bigger jump because there’s 20-year-olds out here, so there’s a lot of bigger, stronger guys, so the hockey is a lot faster,” said Cozens.

“I enjoyed it a lot. Like hanging out with all the new guys, they’re all super nice and the hockey was really good, intense, a lot of fun.”

Cozens played two preseason games with the Hurricanes as the team split a two-game series with the Medicine Hat Tigers, losing 7-5 Friday and winning 4-3 Saturday in Lethbridge.

He didn’t sound all together dazzled by his first WHL point.

“I just went on the forecheck, poked the puck from the goalie to another guy who passed it. So it’s like a second assist,” said Cozens.

He also made an impression before the preseason games during the team camp. In the final intersquad game Cozens scored the game-winner in a shootout.

“I was super relieved because there was a lot of pressure on me,” said Cozens.

In May Cozens became the first Yukon-born player ever to be selected first-round in the WHL bantam draft. He was selected with the 19th pick in the draft, but was actually the 18th player taken, because the Portland Winterhawks forfeited their ninth overall pick as penalty for a 2012 player-benefit violation.

As an underage player, Cozens is eligible to play preseason games and up to five regular season games. He can also join the roster full time once his final U16 season is complete and after he turns 16 in February.

In the mean time he will play for the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., the 2016 Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) bantam prep champions.

“I’m excited to get a fresh start,” said Cozens. “I really like the school system and how they treat their hockey players. And the hockey there is really good.”

The 6-2, 184-pound forward was a team leader for the Delta Hockey Academy bantam prep team in B.C. last season. Cozens finished second on the team in scoring with 31 points (19 goals and 12 assists) in 25 games. Cozens led his team in scoring in two premier western Canadian tournaments — the John Reid Memorial and the Pat Quinn Classic — with All-Star and MVP honours along the way. The Delta team lost in the semifinal of the Elite 15s division of the CSSHL to Yale.

The Hurricanes are coming off the team’s most successful season in years. Lethbridge won 46 games, captured its first division title since 1997 and made the playoffs for the first time in seven years before losing to the Regina Pats in the first round.

Cozens is actually the second member of his family to play for the team. His uncle Scott Cozens — one of the hosts on the television show Canadian Pickers— played several preseason games and one regular season game for the Calgary Wranglers in the late 70s, before the team was moved to Lethbridge and became the Hurricanes in 1987.

Dylan was on the Whitehorse Bantam Mustangs gold-winner rep team — the first ever from Yukon — at the B.C. Hockey Championships last year. He also played for Team Yukon at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George. In September 2014, he all but carried the Canada Cowboys — an elite AAA squad from Alberta — at the Czech Challenger Cup in the Czech Republic. He finished the tournament with 19 points, including five goals in the final to propel the Cowboys to gold over a U.S. team.

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