Dylan Cozens (6-foot-3, 181 pounds), a projected top-5 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22, will write a monthly diary this season for NHL.com leading up to the draft. The 17-year-old forward is in his second season with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League. Winner of the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL Rookie of the Year last season, Cozens leads the Hurricanes with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 16 games. In his second entry, Cozens discusses his participation for Team WHL in the CIBC Canada Russia Series on Monday and Tuesday.
Hello hockey fans.
It was a pretty eventful week beginning Sunday when I arrived in Kamloops (British Columbia) with WHL teammates to prepare for back-to-back games against Russia in the Canada Russia series. Our first game was at Sandman Centre in Kamloops on Monday, and the second game was at Langley Events Centre in Vancouver on Tuesday.
My roommate was my Lethbridge teammate Jordan Bellerive, so we got along great. It was the first time me and Jordy roomed together. We ate at the hotel with the rest of the team. I knew a lot of the guys already since I played with or against them before. It was a great group of guys; everyone was easy to talk to. We all got along great.
I scored the first goal of the series in the opener and [Bellerive] scored the other in a 2-1 win on Monday. Any time you can score a goal is an awesome feeling, and to do it on such a big stage for Team WHL against Russia was just amazing. It's cool that it was the opening goal, too. For Jordy to score the only other goal in the game was also great and we were laughing about it at the end of the game; the chances that we would be only goal scorers in a win for Team WHL against Russia.
There were no set line combinations after Justin Almeida (Moose Jaw) was injured on his very first shift. The lines were changing every single shift. It was tough because Justin got injured early in the game and you know he was going to be out, so you feel bad for him, especially in a game like this where these opportunities don't happen very often.
The Russians were a very tough team. They were always on you. The moment you got the puck, there were two guys there. There was absolutely no time and space to do anything and they were tough and strong. Personally, I felt like I was skating and moving the puck well and was happy with the way things went. I thought I was doing well on face-offs. It's funny, when I'm getting hot in the face-off circle, I stay hot. Other times, if I'm losing them all, I keep losing them. But I was confident in there.
We lost the second game, 3-1. Their goalie, Pyotr Kochetkov, made 33 saves. Both games were a battle and could have gone either way. We lost the second game but were still happy with the way we played. Russia scored a power-play goal with less than two minutes left in the third period of the second game to take a 2-1 lead, and then they scored an empty-net goal, so it was tough.
I took a lot from the tournament. Just being around all those older guys who have been through the draft process and the NHL camps. I learned what it takes to be a pro and learned playing against Russia, that once you get to the next level, there's absolutely no time or space. You have to be alert and know what you're going to do with the puck before it even gets to your stick.
We arrived back in Lethbridge on Wednesday. Me and my teammates (Bellerive, Calen Addison) had the day off from practice on Thursday because we were a little sore and banged up. We're excited to be back with the team and for our game against Calgary on Friday.
We know what we need to do as a team. We've shown that we can do it some games. It's just a matter of staying consistent and doing it for the full 60 minutes. We have a good, skilled team, and know that once we get it going, we're going to be a good team in this league and be hard to play against. We're getting a little bit closer every game.
Thanks for reading this month!