Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Since Nov. 4, Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens has five goals and 10 assists for 15 points in 14 games. That’s second on his own team and 22nd in the NHL.
Jeff Skinner also has 15 points since then and Tage Thompson has 18, which is seventh in the league.
Cozens has been thriving after being placed on the No. 1 power play and on a line with rookies JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn. Quinn has three goals and seven assists for 10 points in 11 games, while Peterka has seven points in the 14 games.
Many people looked at me goofy when I've insisted since he came to Buffalo that Cozens was going to be in their top-six at center. Craig Rivet and I had a lively argument on their podcast, because he thought I was out of my mind to think Cozens would be ahead of Casey Mittelstadt.
The 21-year-old is already being a mentor for the rookies in Quinn and Peterka. I asked head coach Don Granato tongue-in-check if Cozens realizes he’s only 21?
“Don’t tell him,” said Granato with a laugh. “Does everybody realize that really?”
Cozens says don’t give him all the credit. He’s going to school with these guys, as well.
“Yes, I help them, but they help me as well," said Cozens. "There’s stuff I can learn from their games, and I’ve been asking them stuff about their games to try to implement it to mine. They’re such great players, and both have so much in their tool box."
It’s interesting how each one of them brings something different to the line. Cozens is the two-way player with a deceptive shot, Quinn is a pure shooter, while Peterka uses his speed to get in on pucks and even to get pucks back. Cozens likes the diversity the line brings.
“We’ve all got a part of our game that suits our line," he said. "We all have the passing and shooting in our game, and to be responsible in all zones of the ice.”
Cozens scored 13 goals last season, but went dry late in the year. He still was improving and playing very well, and then went to the World Championship, where he led the tournament scoring seven goals for Canada.
Cozens has four goals in his last three games, and five goals in his last five games. That experience with Team Canada gave Cozens the confidence he needed to know that he could put the puck in the net at the NHL level.
“It was a big part for me going to Worlds, going into a big year, a contract year. I wanted to show who I could be, and it was big for me to go over there and try to get my scoring touch back. That was big for my game,” Cozens said.
Both Peterka and Quinn played a lot on their off wings both last season and this year. When Granato switched them to their natural wings, that’s when the line started looking like a group that can complement Thompson’s line. Granato says he wanted to make it easier for them.
“It’s a simpler game. It’s easier receiving pucks on your forehand until they get acclimated to the pace and the size and the league itself," Granato said. "Who knows, they might wind up switching at some point back, but this now gives them a better opportunity.”
Jacob Bryson returned to practice on Saturday and may play Sunday against the San Jose Sharks. Ilya Lyubushkin missed practice again on Saturday. Vinnie Hinostroza is nursing a slight injury and had to leave practice early.
There were no changes on the lines for Saturday’s practice. Bryson took Lawrence Pilut’s spot on defense with Casey Fitzgerald.