Prospects News & Rumors: Clarke, Byram & Cozens

Top prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and Barrie Colts defenseman Brandt Clarke picks up his first goal on loan in Slovakia. Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens records his first NHL goal and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram registers his first NHL point.

Clarke Grabs First Goal In Slovakia

Back in December, 2021 top prospect Brandt Clarke left for Slovakia on loan to join HC Nove Zamky. Brandt had previously tried to push for a loan in Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan with Väsby IK, but it was denied due to his contract with the Barrie Colts. He is ranked by many as the number one prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft after an impressive rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) that saw him amass six goals and 32 assists for 38 points in 57 games played. He led all OHL rookies in assists and was named to the First All-Rookie Team.

With the OHL postponed indefinitely due to the recent lockdown in Ontario, Clarke is one of many OHL players to seek loans in Europe to get playing time before the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. THW’s own Mathieu Sheridan had this to say about Clarke’s abilities in his assessment of the race for first overall.

Clarke can change the game at any time. His elite skating ability allows him to create time and space with the puck on his stick and he can dish it off to his teammates in the slot without any hesitation. He loves to jump into the rush and is more than capable of getting back if the puck transitions the other way. Clarke is also no slouch in the defensive end either. Standing at 6-foot-1, he is great at using his size to clear the front of his net of any danger. He is not afraid to go into the corners to get the puck back and makes a great first pass to his forwards breaking through the neutral zone.

Clarke’s first goal in Slovakia showcased his offensive ability as he made a few nice moves in the slot and followed up to convert the rebound. He’ll likely remain in Slovakia until a decision on the 2020-21 OHL season is made. Ontario’s lockdown was extended until Feb. 19, so there likely won’t be an update until after that time. Either way, it’s great to see Clarke playing hockey again, and he definitely has some ground to make up on his peers who have been playing since last fall.

Cozens Bags First NHL Goal

Dylan Cozens has followed up his impressive 2021 World Junior Championship (WJC) performance, in which he recorded eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in seven games played, with some solid performances for the Buffalo Sabres. This was capped off last night with Cozens picking up his first NHL goal in the Sabres’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. He already had one assist in his first four games and now he sits at one goal and one assist through five games played.

Cozens demonstrated his exceptional shooting ability that saw him lead the 2021 WJC in scoring. While he is currently playing in a bottom-six role for Buffalo, he is also receiving minutes on the second power-play unit. All signs point to a big year from the 2019 seventh-overall pick. If Cozens can ever find a spot on the top unit with Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall, it might even be a season where he challenges for the Calder Trophy.

Byram Records First NHL Point

Meanwhile, another one of Canada’s standout players from the 2021 WJC is excelling with the Colorado Avalanche. Defenseman Bowen Byram picked up his first career NHL point in Colorado’s 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. He made a nice shoulder fake to get the puck down low and fired a strike across the ice to Mikko Rantanen.

The Avalanche have an embarrassment of riches on the blue line with Byram joining a young core that includes Samuel Girard, Devon Toews and phenom Cale Makar. It’s maybe the one positive impact the pandemic has had on the NHL season. Several players who would normally be playing in the CHL, Byram and Cozens included, are getting chances to impress at the NHL level and are taking advantage of their opportunities.