One way for a fan base to get excited about their team’s future is to give them a lot of players in the World Junior Championship. The two most important for the Buffalo Sabres, Jack Quinn (8th overall in 2020) and Dylan Cozens (7th overall in 2019) could make up two-thirds of Canada’s top line along with Blackhawks prospect, Kirby Dach, who is the team captain. That’s a heck of a line and they seem to have some chemistry, but a lot can happen between now and the time when they’ll have exhibition games.
Canada will now play one on December 23rd versus Russia. The exhibition schedule was pushed back because of positive tests with Sweden and Germany’s squads.
Dach was playing right wing, Cozens in the middle and Quinn was on the left side. Cozens does look physically stronger and that could be the little edge he’ll need this year to get through the rigors of an NHL season. If nothing else, he could be a part of the taxi squad
Cozens is now listed at 6-3, 198 pounds. He was listed at 183 when he was drafted seventh overall in 2019. He has all the necessary tools in his toolbox. He has an elite wrist shot. I was behind a pane of glass when he was ripping them on net a few summers ago and saw it first-hand, the same way a goalie will in this tournament. Cozens is wearing the “A” as part of Canada’s leadership group rounded out with Colorado Avalanche prospect defenseman, Bowen Byram.
“To wear this letter takes a lot of responsibility, and I wear it with pride and humility,” said Cozens. “We have matured a lot in the last couple of years. With experience and what it takes to win. Having experience of last year’s World Juniors that’s huge for us. Just being a second-year guy on this team now. We know how hard it’s going to be.”
Quarantine life isn’t easy for all people from all walks of life. Yes, hockey players are regular people with special skills, but they have to learn how to deal with that, and so far, Cozens hasn’t had any issues in the bubble. It’s hard to say he’s coping with it when he’s just so darn upbeat about it.
“We’ve done 14 days already so doing five was a bit of a breeze for us,” Cozens chuckled. “Better WiFi here though.”
Canada is the favorite in the tournament. That’s not a surprise. The other day in practice featured a fourth line of Connor Zary on the left side (Calgary Flames, 24th overall in 2020), Quinton Byfield (Los Angeles Kings 2nd overall in 2020) at center, and Philip Tomasino on the right side (Nashville Predators, 20th overall pick in 2019). All three players can play the pivot, it’s truly an embarrassment of riches but this year, more than in other years, we could see more injuries from lack of playing, positive tests are possible, and just getting cold in a key game can cost even the best teams. The world is truly watching this tournament, not much other hockey is operating at the moment and the NHL’s start is on the horizon.