On day one of development camp and just six days after being selected seventh overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Dylan Cozens was a fan favorite.
As he stepped onto the ice at HarborCenter for the first time wearing a Sabres sweater, young fans reached down from the stands above the tunnel, to give the first round pick some high fives.
#Sabres 1st round pick Dylan Cozens takes the ice for the time as a member of the Blue & Gold.
Full report from day 1 of Development Camp coming up at 5/6 on @news4buffalo pic.twitter.com/itzKP1OtkM — Nick Filipowski (@NEWS4_NICK) June 26, 2019
“It’s pretty cool. You have a whole new fan base here and lots of kids that look up to me,” Cozens said after practice. “I know it was important for me when I was growing up at that age, high-fiving the players. So, it’s nice to get back to them. I was in their position once so it’s pretty cool.”
As a first round draft pick, expectations are always high. Even though the Sabres front office and scouting staff watched hours of film on the centerman leading up to the draft, Wednesday was his first chance to show the team what he can bring to the ice.
“Just that they made the right choice,” Cozens said of what he wanted owner Terry Pegula, general manager Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger to see.
“They told us they’re not evaluating any of us at this (camp). We’re just supposed to go out there, develop, learn lots of stuff and just have fun — that’s the biggest thing. Obviously, I want to impress them and show them they made the right choice but I’m going out just trying to enjoy my first NHL camp.”
Winger Tage Thompson said he was impressed with Cozens skating, an attribute Cozens believes is NHL ready. However, he knows there is still plenty to improve upon as he gears up for the fall.
“Just get stronger. I know that’s something I need to work on, put on some weight,” Cozens said. “The guys at the next level, they’re big, they’re strong, and they’re a lot older than me, so I know that’s the biggest thing is just putting on some weight, getting strong and just improving all areas of my game.”