Sabres Ink Cozens: Thumbs Up

It’s two, errr… rather one thumb up for Dylan Cozens.

The Buffalo Sabres signed their 2019 first-round pick Cozens to a three-year entry-level contract (ELC) yesterday. Cozens, the seventh overall pick at the NHL Entry Draft held in Vancouver took part in Sabres Development Camp in late June but wound up mangling his left thumb when he was checked and landed awkwardly. In early July, he underwent successful surgery has an expected recovery time of roughly two to three months.

That means it’s likely thumbs down for him playing in the annual Prospects Challenge at Harborcenter in early September and possibly training camp as well.

Related: 2019 NHL Key Dates to Remember

The deal was signed for the entry-level maximum cap hit of $925,000 per season, plus performance bonuses that could take the total of the deal to $5.325 million. Since Cozens is an 18-year-old with junior eligibility remaining, the deal would not kick in until Cozens plays 10 NHL games and could slide to instead start in the 2020-21 season.

Sliding His Contract One Year

Cozens played in the CHL before being drafted, so he can return to the juniors or play in the NHL. He cannot play in the NCAA. If he plays with the Sabres, Cozens can play up to nine games before burning a year off his ELC. If he doesn’t hit the 10-game mark, his contract would slide for one year, starting in the 2020-21 season.

The Sabres used the nine-game tryout with Sam Reinhart, their 2014 first-round pick (second overall). He played nine games with the team during the 2014-15 season (notching a single assist), then returned to the Kootenay Ice of the WHL for the remainder of the season. Reinhart has been a fixture in the lineup since he played 79 games in his rookie season during the 2015-16 season.

After a brief stint in the NHL, Sam Reinhart returned to the WHL’s Kootenay Ice. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

While on injured reserve, the youngster can be with the Sabres and get accustomed to the organization, its staff and learn what it takes to the compete in the NHL. He’d also get an up close and personal idea of exactly the kind of dedication it takes to prepare and compete. A chance to be among professionals to sense their speed, strength, and skill and know what it’s going to take to make it in the big league.

Honing His Game

In his second full season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL, Cozens netted 34 goals and 50 assists for 84 points in 68 games for the Lethbridge Hurricanes last season. The 6-foot-3 and 180-pound forward finished the season tied for 10th among all WHL skaters in points and ranked in the top 10 in even-strength assists and even-strength points. He added four goals and four assists in seven playoff games.

Related: Sabres Go to the Yukon to Improve

The Whitehorse, Yukon native helped Team Canada take home a gold medal at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup last August, chipping in two goals and three assists in five games. At the 2019 IIHF World U18 Championship in Sweden, he was an alternate captain for Team Canada. There he tied for seventh in tournament scoring with nine points in seven games. 

Other Notable Signings

With Cozens inking his name to a deal, he’s now the sixth top-10 draft pick to sign an entry-level deal. His contract is the same as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider (No. 6 overall) and Edmonton Oilers blueliner Philip Broberg (No. 8 overall).

Jack Hughes Devils Draft
Jack Hughes could make some serious dough if he finds success next season with the Devils. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers

Phenom Jack Hughes, who was chosen first overall, signed Saturday with the New Jersey Devils. His deal could skyrocket to $11.325 million if he hits all of his bonuses and incentives. The second-overall pick, Kaapo Kakko, signed Friday with the New York Rangers and can earn as much as $10.725 million. No. 3 pick Kirby Dach signed July 8 with the Chicago Blackhawks for a potential bank of $10.275 million.