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Cozens overwhelmed from reception of Sabres, fans

June 28th, 2019 by Heather Engel / Correspondent

BUFFALO — The reality of being a first-round pick is starting to set in for Dylan Cozens.

Selected by the Buffalo Sabres at No. 7 in the 2019 NHL Draft on Friday, Cozens arrived in Buffalo on Sunday and has quickly gotten a feel for life as a member of the Sabres ahead of his first development camp with the organization.

“Just getting a tour of the dressing room and everything, being in the city and just walking around and people recognizing you, it’s pretty cool,” Cozens said. “It’s definitely setting in that I’m starting to live my NHL dream.”

Fans have stopped him on the street to offer congratulations and shake his hand, and through those interactions and being around the city, he’s gotten a feel for it as a sports town.

Cozens has also met forward Sam Reinhart, who was at the draft in Vancouver, and captain Jack Eichel spoke with Cozens on the phone after he was selected.

“That was pretty cool meeting [Reinhart]. Then getting the call from Jack, that was pretty special, and that was awesome of him to do,” Cozens said.

Cozens remained in Vancouver for Rounds 2-7 on Saturday and took advantage of the time to chat with general manager Jason Botterill and coach Ralph Krueger.

“They’re both really good guys and easy to talk to,” Cozens said. “The second round, I went back and watched that in the stands with Ralph and talked to him for a long time. He’s a really good person and it seems like a really good coach who gets it and is someone I’m excited to play for one day.”

When that will be is yet to be determined.

He fills a need for the Sabres at center and on offense. Cozens led Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League with 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in 68 games in 2018-19, and had nine points (four goals, five assists) for Canada at the 2019 IIHF World U-18 Championship. At center, Eichel is set on the top line for the Sabres, and Casey Mittelstadt is heading into his second NHL season.

But the Sabres won’t rush Cozens. Botterill acknowledged at the draft that he needs to get stronger and Cozens is prepared for whichever path he takes.

“I know that I have a lot of work to do if I want to make the jump, and if I’m privileged enough to, I think I’ll be ready for it to play next year,” said Cozens, who can also play the wing. “But if not, I’ll go back to Lethbridge and lead my team there and develop new leadership skills.”

He’s looking forward to getting on the ice for development camp. It’s been a while since he’s skated, with the ice already taken out on the three sheets in his hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon. Cozens will head back home at some point after development camp, and in the fall he’ll back in Buffalo for his first NHL training camp, with the Sabres boasting an expanded fanbase.

“Lots of people saying how Buffalo just got 35,000 new fans,” Cozens said. “It’s going to be most of Whitehorse’s new favorite team, so it’s pretty cool.”

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