Dylan Cozens Selected No. 7 Overall by Buffalo Sabres in 2019 NHL Draft

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2019

KELOWNA, BC - NOVEMBER 17: Dylan Cozens #24 of the Lethbridge Hurricanes skates to the bench against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on November 17, 2017 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres landed a high-scoring center with the selection of Dylan Cozens at No. 7 overall in the 2019 NHL draft Friday night.

Buffalo Sabres @BuffaloSabres

With the 7th overall pick, we select center Dylan Cozens. Welcome to Buffalo! https://t.co/hjeZApXnVG

After emerging as a threat for the Western Hockey League's Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2017-18, Cozens truly broke out in 2018-19 with career highs across the board, which put him on the radar as a potential top-10 pick in the NHL draft.

In 68 games, Cozens racked up 34 goals and 50 assists for 84 points to go along with a plus-32 rating. That represented a significant improvement on his 22 goals, 31 assists and minus-six rating the previous season.

Cozens ranked a somewhat modest 10th in points during the 2018-19 regular season, but given the fact that he is on an upward trajectory and possesses good size (6'3" and 183 pounds), it seems likely there is plenty of untapped potential remaining.

Although Cozens doesn't come close to checking as many boxes as the likes of Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko in the 2019 draft class, he is part of the next wave of prospects with a chance to make a big impact at the NHL level in the coming years.

Cozens may need a bit more seasoning before he is ready for the NHL unlike the aforementioned players, and that would allow him to turn in a truly dominant season at Lethbridge prior to making the jump.

The Sabres will have the option of allowing him to play nine games next season before sending him back to the WHL without burning a year on its entry-level contract if they so choose, which may be the best course of action if Cozens shows in training camp that he is at least deserving of a look.

Cozens can afford to grow into his frame a little bit more, and once that happens, he has 30-to-40-goal potential as a power forward due to his combination of size and soft hands.

While Cozens is far from a slam-dunk selection, his skill set is impressive, and it could lead to him being one of the top players to come out of the draft not named Hughes or Kakko.

The Sabres own the NHL's longest active playoff drought at eight seasons, and they are desperate to make it back to the playoffs in the near future.

Cozens could play a role in that endeavor in the next year or two alongside a promising group of players, including forwards Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Jeff Skinner, Casey Mittelstadt, Alexander Nylander and Victor Olofsson as well as defensemen Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen.

The pieces are in place for the Sabres to return to prominence, and it is possible that Cozens could be the player who brings it all together due to his immense skill and playmaking ability.