Kirby Dach of Saskatoon and Dylan Cozens of Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League are considered two of the top centers available for in the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
The first round is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
Dach (6-foot-4, 198 pounds), No. 3 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had 73 points (25 goals, 48 assists) in 62 games. Cozens (6-3, 183), No. 5 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, had 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in 68 games.
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"They are big forwards who can dominate," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "Cozens does it with pure speed and putting pressure on defensemen, and Dach does it by reading the play and creating and reacting to the pressure put on him. They are elite players who will go high in this draft. It's two different styles of games that suit the game very well."
In a poll conducted by NHL.com of 10 NHL scouts, Dach came away with a 6-4 advantage.
Having faced each player this season, Vancouver defenseman Bowen Byram (6-0, 193), No. 2 in Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters, was asked what made each opposing forward so dynamic.
"Kirby uses his hockey sense to an advantage because he's a really smart player," Byram said. "That helps get him in position to score, and when he's in position to score he's got soft hands so most of the time it ends up in the back of the net.
"Cozens uses his speed and big frame very well to get to the net and he's got good finish once he gets in there. He's got soft hands too and sees the ice well."
NHL.com sought the opinion of NHL evaluators who have watched Dach and Cozens this season. They promised honesty in exchange for anonymity.
In favor of Kirby Dach
"I like Dach better from a perspective of he has that little bit of Ryan Getzlaf in him. I haven't seen him fight but he has that nastiness in him. And when he wants to play he's tough to contain."
"I'm not so sure Cozens isn't going to be a winger in the NHL. Here's the interesting thing for me. I think Kirby is a real talented player and I know people make the comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf, but he may be more like Jeff Carter. Carter was never a first-line center, but a darn good second-line center. For me I think the Colorado Avalanche (with the No. 4 pick in the first round) would be a great fit for Kirby. You have Nathan MacKinnon as top-line center and then Kirby there to fill the second-line center role. I think Kirby has a little more to give."
"Dach is everything you want in an NHL power forward. He's fast, he's got puck control, he protects the puck and sees the ice very well. He's composed under pressure and I think he's a little bit better of a playmaker than Cozens."
"When Dach gets the puck and can possess it, he can hold you off, let things develop and find an open guy he's not even looking at from the outset."
"Dach is more complete; he's a man out there. Cozens is a likeable player as well, but I just think Dach has a more higher-end skill package, a little bit more higher-end IQ and more higher-end physical presence. He might have to play wing a little bit because it's tough for a 19-year-old to play center in the NHL."
In favor of Dylan Cozens
"I'd take Cozens. He can beat you by picking the puck in his own end and play at pace with and without it. If someone can hit him on the fly it's almost going to be impossible to bring him down without taking a penalty. He goes wide and can cut to the middle and get it to the net. He has good size so he's a lot to contain."
Video: Dylan Cozens takes No. 5 on Draft Prospects list
"When comparing the two, I'd say Cozens is more about driving the net. He has a bit more sandpaper in his game in that area. He can skate like the wind, he's 6-foot-whatever and can shoot and makes plays."
"Cozens plays the game with speed and skill and he's got the quick read-and-react to take advantage of situations. When the game is on the line, he's shown time and again, you want to put him on the ice because he's going to generate a scoring chance."
"They both have high-end skill and hockey sense, they compete very hard and their work ethic is very good. Cozens does things a little bit more consistently all the time. But you can't forget we are talking about 18-year-old kids; at the end of the day, things might change five years from now."
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