Kozlov's path to the NHL involved a near-fatal auto accident in Russia and a lot of determined work by the Detroit Red Wings, who selected him in the third round (No. 45) of the 1990 NHL Draft.
The accident took place in October 1991, when a car he was driving was hit by a bus. His passenger, fellow prospect Kirill Tarasov, was killed and Kozlov sustained a serious brain injury that put him in a coma and nearly ended his hockey career. He recovered and was allowed to join the Red Wings, playing his first NHL game March 12, 1992, and had two assists in a 5-4 win against the St. Louis Blues.