Sabres Have Their Future Workhorse In Dylan Cozens

Buffalo Sabres Center Dylan Cozens is the present and the future of the Buffalo Sabres. We have heard this before — a young player on the Buffalo Sabres that fans buy into as the “present and future of the team” — but it takes a special player and person to be considered as such, especially in the city of Buffalo, but Cozens for me has checked off every single box in his young NHL career.

I start off with the simple fact that the Don Granato-led version of the Sabres appears to be a team that plays fast, hustles, and simply works hard. Gone are the days of Dan Bylsma, Phil Housley, and Ralph Kreuger, who in my opinion, took the talent we had and forced the players to play within their system of hockey. It’s safe to say it simply didn’t work.

Now, Granato has taken the reins of a team that has a mix of a veteran presence as well as a wide variety of young talent. Granato has assessed the players’ strengths and weaknesses and has come to find that Cozens has been ready for every challenge thrown his way.

Cozens Playing Well in Last 3 Games

In Cozens’ last three games, playing against arguably the best three centers in the league in McDavid, Matthews, and Crosby, he has two goals and one assist. While those two goals came in Buffalo’s battle against Edmonton, Cozens has taken on a role played very well in the Mike Peca Era of the Sabres and it is a simple role.

Dylan Cozens Buffalo Sabres
Dylan Cozens, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Stop the opposition’s best center from scoring, I believe Cozens’ greatest attribute is not within his offensive prowess, but his physicality on each end of the ice. He has played with a sense of urgency that this team has not seen in quite some time. For as talented as Jack Eichel was for the Sabres and will be for the Vegas Golden Knights, was he known as a two-way player that could shut down the opposing center?

I am in no way shape or form saying Cozens is better than Eichel. Offensively, the former Sabres’ captain is one of the top five maybe even top three players in the game when healthy, but this team has needed a center like Cozens who can play a two-way game and step up when the situation is thrust upon him. Whether that means dropping the gloves or not.

Related: Revisiting Departed Buffalo Sabres Players From the 2020-21 Season

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the presumed number one center of this team heading into the season and on opening night against the Montreal Canadiens was Casey Mittlestadt, not Cozens. “Mitts” suffered an injury in that very game and Cozens was thrust into a role nobody anticipated he would play in, let alone play well in.

The 2020-2021 season for the Sabres was one of the worst seasons in recent memory as well as one of the worst seasons I have seen in my lifetime. As Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen were cleaning out their lockers there was not much if any reason for those three players to show an ounce of excitement. As I watched these interviews I began to feel a sense of “doom and gloom” for a franchise that I have grown up rooting forever since I could walk. The memories of the Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Thomas Vanek, and of course Jason Pominville seem like a very distant memory and it is that time was over fifteen years ago.

The Sabres fanbase has experienced nothing short of heartbreak before this era, after this era, and could quite possibly experience more in the coming years, but to have a player clean out his locker and appear fortunate to be a part of this team, fortunate to have the experience of a challenging season, and fortunate to move forward as a Sabre at that moment I realized, Cozens is the present and future of the franchise.

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