Dylan Cozens won the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s rookie of the year on May 2 in Red Deer, Alta. (Rob Wallator/Western Hockey League)

Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens wins Western Hockey League rookie of the year award

‘With all the other great players that could have won it, for them to choose me I’m super honoured’

Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens won the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the Western Hockey League’s rookie of the year at the annual WHL Awards in Red Deer, Alta., on May 2.

“With all the other great players that could have won it, for them to choose me, I’m super honoured,” said Cozens. “I’d never be able to do it without the opportunity my coaches gave me in Lethbridge. I owe it all to that.”

The Yukoner had 53 points — 22 goals and 31 assists — in 57 regular season games for the Hurricanes this season.

Cozens finished second in rookie scoring despite missing time due to a shoulder injury.

He credits his ability to continue scoring to staying connected to the team and the game.

“Just watching all the games because I wasn’t playing made me want to get back as soon as I could,” said Cozens. “I worked hard in the gym to get myself ready.”

In the playoffs, the Hurricanes advanced to the eastern conference finals before losing to the Swift Current Broncos in six games. Cozens scored seven goals and had six assists for 13 points in 16 playoff games.

With just days between being eliminated from the playoffs and being named rookie of the year, Cozens said the accolades didn’t take the sting out of losing.

“I would have rather gone to the finals and not won rookie of the year for sure,” said Cozens. “It doesn’t really make up for it all — I’m still pretty sad about the season ending.”

Cozens was named April’s rookie of the month just days before the yearly awards. He was also named rookie of the month for September and October.

On March 21, Cozens was named the eastern conference rookie of the year.

For now, Cozens said he plans to take some time for himself before he gets heavily into preparing for next season.

“[I’m] definitely taking some time off. Not sure how long yet, but I’ve got to let the body rest a little,” said Cozens. “Then after that I’ll be working hard all summer to get ready for next season.”

Cozens is eligible to be selected in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, so next season will bring with it a whole different level of pressure and expectation.

For his part, Cozens said the draft is in his mind, but that he is focused on getting better.

“Obviously it’s on my mind,” said Cozens. “That’s what everyone thinks about their whole life. Working towards the draft, obviously it’s on my mind, but right now I’m just focused on getting myself to be the best I can be and reaching my full potential.”

Cozens was selected 19th overall in the first round in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, the first Yukoner ever selected in the first round.

Earlier in the season he played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C., as part of Team Canada Red. He had seven points in six games during the tournament.

Cozens last played in the Yukon during the 2014-15 season for the Whitehorse Mustangs before moving Outside to play bantam prep hockey in B.C., and he said he is glad to see the growth of teams like the Rivermen and the B.C. Hockey zone league taking shape.

“The program they’ve got there now is really good and I’m excited for the future of hockey in Whitehorse,” said Cozens. “I’m happy they’ve got that program going so people don’t have to leave as young as I did.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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