Hockey phenom Dylan Cozens makes history in WHL draft

Whitehorse's Dylan Cozens had a better than average day at school on Thursday. The hockey player took time away from his scholastic pursuits to watch the Western Hockey League's bantam draft online.

Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens had a better than average day at school on Thursday.

The hockey player took time away from his scholastic pursuits to watch the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft online. It didn’t take long for him to hear his name.

The Lethbridge Hurricanes picked up the 15-year-old in the first round.

“It’s obviously very exciting and I’m really happy,” said Cozens. “Seeing all those players I know go up, I just couldn’t wait for my name to be called. When I heard my name called I was really relieved … I was honestly expecting a little bit higher (than 18th), but that’s fine with me.”

Though slotted in as 19th selected overall, he was actually 18th since the Portland Winterhawks forfeited their ninth overall pick as penalty for a 2012 player-benefit violation.

Cozens is the first Yukon-born player ever to be selected first-round in the WHL bantam draft.

Just days after that exciting news, Cozens got some more. On Monday B.C. Hockey announced Cozens was among 40 players selected for a U-16 high performance camp this July in Shawnigan Lake. Cozens was one of four Yukon players invited to play at the B.C. Cup elite showcase last month in Salmon Arm and the only of the four invited to the final camp this summer. It will be another opportunity to perform in front of B.C. Hockey and Hockey Canada scouts and could lead to playing for the province or event the national team.

“I just have to keep training and become the best hockey player I can be,” said Cozens. “I’m going to try to go to the gym every day, shooting pucks and stick handling in the back yard, trying to get on the ice as much as I can.”

The six-foot, 150-pound forward was a team leader for the Delta Hockey Academy bantam prep team in B.C. this season. The winger finished the season 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 – this season with All-Star and MVP honours along the way. The Delta team lost in the semifinal of the Elite 15s division in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.

As a first-round pick, Cozens could lace up for the Hurricanes before the end of the summer. He is eligible to play preseason games and up to five regular season games. He can also join the roster once his final U16 season is complete and after he turns 16 in February.

“So if they make the playoffs I could play for them,” said Cozens.

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.

“Dylan is a kid who has improved all year,” Hurricanes head scout Rob MacLachlan told media during the draft. “He skates as well as anyone in the draft and he’s a game-changer. I was telling our guys, he goes out to win the hockey games and leaves everything on the ice.

“In all the years I’ve done this, I think character is so huge when picking a player.”

If Dylan gets to play for the Hurricanes, he won’t be the first Cozens to do so. Dylan’s 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 late ‘70s, before the team was moved and became the Hurricanes in 1987.

However, Dylan had a tough decision to make before putting his name in the hat at the WHL draft. In recent weeks the University of Denver offered him a full scholarship and he had to decide which route to take – major junior in the WHL or NCAA in Colorado.

“It was a really hard decision,” he said.

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.

“We are very excited for Dylan. He has worked hard to reach this goal but he knows this is only the beginning of a long road if he is going to achieve his dream (of playing in the NHL),” said Dylan’s mother Sue Bogle in an email to the News.

“He has had an excellent year at Delta hockey academy. It certainly was a hard decision as parents to let him go but we knew that for him and his personality it was a necessary step in his overall development. His two younger brothers sure miss him but they are also very proud of him!”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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