Just a few days after the NHL draft, the Buffalo Sabres top prospect and 2019 first-rounder Dylan Cozens dislocated his left thumb at Sabres Development Camp and was forced to undergo surgery to repair the injury. Not the way the Sabres were hoping things to go. It was reported that he would miss two to three months, but NHL.com’s Adam Kimmelman writes that Cozens has already been on the ice since Aug. 15, shooting pucks and is working hard to be ready for the Prospects Challenge, starting on Sept. 7.
“I’m not fully cleared yet, but I hope to be as soon as possible,” said Cozens during the NHLPA Rookie Showcase Sunday. “There’s no rushing things. I don’t want to rush it. But right now, I can shoot. I want to be cleared for that (Prospect’s Challenge) and I’m optimistic for that. I feel like I have a good chance at being ready for that, but you never know. We’ll see by then.”
Cozen’s main goal would be to make the Sabres’ team out of training camp. The 18-year-old center, who the team drafted with the seventh-overall pick, might already be talented enough to make the team, especially considering there is no guarantee that the team has an adequate second-line center on their roster this season after Casey Mittelstadt struggled in that role last season.
The injury, which he sustained on the final day of development camp during a 3-on-3 scrimmage when he was clipped by a defenseman against the wall, looked to be an obvious candidate to be sent back to his junior team, the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, after the injury.
“The puck was going to the wall and I tried to chip it around [the defenseman] and dodge him to the inside and he kind of clipped me a little bit,” Cozens said about the injury. “It was awkward, and I fell right down on my thumb, perfectly straight on my thumb, all my weight went down on it, and it shot it back.”
Because he was expected to miss training camp, which would only have made his chances to make the team nearly impossible. However, if Cozens can be cleared before the Prospects Challenge, which would allow him to face off against the top prospects of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils, and he would get that showcase as well as a full training camp to get a true shot at a spot immediately in Buffalo.
“I believe I do have a shot at making the team,” Cozens said. “Obviously, not too many 18-year-olds make it, but I feel that I have the size, I have the skating, I have the strength to be a guy who can step in at a young age.”