Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Sometimes you can tell when an athlete is just giving you a line to be politically correct, but when I spoke with Dylan Cozens this week following his on-ice session at Harborcenter, I can tell you without doubt, he is looking forward to another season with the Buffalo Sabres this year.
“I think that we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year," Cozens believes. "Everyone’s doubting us because we’re a young team, but if you look at the second half of last season, we were beating those veteran teams. So I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people and we’re going to have a good year.”
I think the 20-year-old knows this is going to be his team, and he can’t wait to be the leader. Now, don’t get me wrong, Cozens is not trying to push Jack Eichel out the door, but when the time comes up, he’ll be ready.
“I’ve always seen myself as a leader," Cozens said. "I want to lead by example and be a guy that guys can look to if they need anything or look to to inspire them. That’s what I’ve always been growing up - the guy that wants to lead and do things the right way.”
With the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 season, Cozens only played 41 games in his rookie year. The kid took on a small leadership role, because Eichel, Jake McCabe and Kyle Okposo were all injured at times. He feels he’s ready for more in his second NHL season.
“I think definitely I could go out and be a leader on this team," Cozens said. "Just by the way I play, leading by example and being a voice in the room. I think it’s something I’m ready to do.”
In 2016, the Edmonton Oilers made Connor McDavid the youngest captain in NHL history at the age of 19. He was 20 days younger than Gabe Landeskog was when the Colorado Avalanche made him the captain. Landeskog was mature enough and was ready, McDavid was not.