Ek's note to Sabres fans...HUGE win last night as the team is really starting to play! We have two of our finalists for the next great sabres blogger, Hank and Brad, and we are awaiting pieces from three other writers I emailed. While we wait, the Sabres news goes on so Mark has posted another update today. We will be posting new pieces by Hank and Brad over the next two days! Thanks!
Dylan Cozens is a force to be reckoned with. The rookie seemingly has smashed through several barriers of adversity that have been thrown in his way this season and has emerged as one of Buffalo's most impressive players. Like a young Ryan Getzlaf, Cozens has grabbed his teammates by the scruff of their collective neck and has dragged them into the battle.
Last Sunday, the Lethbridge Hurricanes product returned from an upper-body injury and has been dominant in all phases of his game in his return. Cozens has four assists in his last three games played. The power center played with power and passion in Buffalo's 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. The Workhorse from Whitehorse had the primary assist on Anders Bjork's first goal in a Sabres sweater.
I have been impressed by the poise and awareness that Cozens plays with since first seeing him play at development camp in the summer of 2019. Bjork could not have asked for a better pass from Cozens.
There's a lot to love about Cozens on this goal by Samson Reinhart. Head up and edges engaged, Cozens transports the puck from the half wall to the point all the while searching for his shot lane while walking the line. Cozens did 99% of the work and Reinhart got all the glory. Cozens doesn't care. He's an unselfish, team-first guy.
Cozens continues to thrive at second line center with Bjork and fellow rookie Arttu Ruotsalainen. Cozens was born to play center. In 2019-20, Cozens scored 38 goals and 47 assists in 51 games for Lethbridge. In 2018-19, Cozens potted 34 goals and 50 assists in 68 games for the Hurricanes. The Sabres got a great power center when they selected Cozens seventh overall at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Cozens plays a man's game and he's only just 20 years old. He is proving that he is a big game hunter.
After Friday's practice, Cozens admitted that starting his NHL career playing the wing was a great way for him to acclimate to the fast and furious NHL style of play.
“There’s lots of responsibility playing center and I had just been coming on the wing learning the speed of the game and learning how to defend on the wing,” Cozens said. “It was big for me to start and once I gained more confidence, moving to was center was good for me.
Despite being knocked out of the lineup for 15 games with two injuries and a COVID positive diagnosis in February, Cozens has scored 4 goals and 6 assists in 28 games played.
“I’ve had a lot of things going on this season, but I’ve been able to watch a lot of games and just learn from watching,” said Cozens. “I’m happy where my game is at right now.”
The Sabres will host the Pittsburgh Penguins for matinee games on Saturday and Sunday. Cozens will likely bump heads in the faceoff circle with Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Jeff Carter, Jason Zucker, and the surging Penguins. Cozens isn't intimidated. He has a lot of confidence in hsi new lineys Anders Bjork and Arttu Ruotsalainen. Cozens won't back down from the challenge. It's not in his nature. He will continue to inspire his linemates and drag them into the battle.
“Our chemistry has been really good,” Cozens said of his line. “Bjorkie’s been great. He works so hard hunting the puck down, and Arttu’s so smart with the puck and making plays. It’s been great playing with those two guys. We’re a confident line right now.”
It's great to see Casey Mittelstadt finally earn his respect in the NHL.
Mittelstadt, 22, has been the one Sabres player to benefit the most with the head coaching change from Ralph Krueger to Don Granato. Sabres assistant coach Matt Ellis has been working one on one with Mittlestadt for the past season. In his first two NHL seasons, the former University Minnesota Golden Gopher star had struggled to find success on both sides of the puck. Mittlestadt was largely relegated to fourth line duties where his skills could not be showcased in the miniscule time on ice that the checking line recieves in the NHL.
When Granato assumed the bench boss role, he chucked Krueger's stifling defensive straight jacket into the dumpster. Granato loves offense. He believes that the legs feed the wolf. Granato has given permission to Mittelstadt and his teammates to throw off their mental chains and to use their god-given offensive abilities. Mittelstadt has responded with an emphatic rebel yell by producing the offensive output levels that were of him when the Sabres selected him eighth overall in 2017.
In his last 10 games, Mittlestadt has led the Sabres offense by scoring 6 goals and 2 assists.
Mittelstadt's last six games have been very impressive and are a great indicator for the type of offense he will create for the Sabres in the future.
The trio of Rasmus Asplund-Casey Mittelstadt-Tage Thompson has been full value for the Sabres