By Herald on July 23, 2020.
Dylan Cozens has already been through one World Junior Championship evaluation camp.
The next one is going to be a tad different.
After spending the summer up in his native Yukon, the Lethbridge Hurricanes forward and Buffalo Sabres prospect was back in Lethbridge this week for the United Hockey school as Cozens gears up for his second World Junior Championship evaluation camp.
The product of Whitehorse more than made the grade last year, cracking the Canadian squad and ultimately winning gold at the 2020 World Junior Championship.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the entire Canadian Hockey League in March and strict precautions still being taken, Cozens knows his bid to don the Maple Leaf a second time will not be taking the traditional route.
Instead, Cozens and the likes of Lethbridge’s Ridly Greig — also onhand for the United Hockey camp — will partake in Hockey Canada’s virtual National Junior Team Summer Development Camp slated to run July 27-31.
This tryout is going to cyberspace.
“We know it’s going to be virtual over Zoom for a couple days,” said Cozens. “So it’s going to be different and something we’re not really used to. But it’s a way for them to get the point across about how they want the team to play, the systems and all the structure. You have to take the positives out of it. It’s a time to teach everyone what Hockey Canada is all about.
“It’s definitely something none of us are used to and it’s definitely very important that we follow all of their structures and guidelines so we can overcome this. It definitely takes a lot of adjusting, but it’s going to be everyday life, so we have to get used it.”
Greig, who just completed his second full season with the Brandon Wheat Kings, is one of the first-time invitees to this year’s camp.
“It’s a little different with the Zoom calls and online, but I think we’re going to take it step-by-step and see how it goes,” said Greig, who had 26 goals and 60 points with the Wheaties last season.
Greig heads into next week’s virtual camp with a little familiarity on his side via Vancouver Giants head coach and fellow Lethbridge resident Mike Dyck, who is not only heading up the United Hockey school, but is also Greig’s former midget coach as well as one of the assistant coaches for Team Canada.
“It’s good,” said Greig, who heads into his NHL draft year ranked 15th among North American skaters. “He’s got lots of unreal drills and he has coached me a lot growing up. So I’m getting to see him and talk about different things.”
The past two weeks have been about getting back on the ice, even if that meant getting dressed outside in the hot sun because of no access to the dressing rooms due to pandemic regulations.
“It’s been unreal so far,” said Greig. “It’s been a little different dressing outside in the parking lot and everything. But just getting out on the ice again with all the guys has been unreal so far. Obviously in the first couple of sessions the rust got shaken out a little bit.”
When the pandemic hit, Cozens retreated back to his northern roots in the Yukon.
“My trainer up there has a private gym,” said Cozens. “So I’ve been lucky getting in since Day 1 of the pandemic. I’ve been getting out a lot into the woods and fishing, just getting out on the boat and doing lots of that stuff.”
With the virtual camp looming, Cozens headed back to southern Alberta to get in some ice sessions.
“I spent the off-season in the Yukon and we don’t have ice up there right now,” he said. “All my buddies are starting to skate right now so I knew I needed to find ice. Lethbridge seemed like the best place to be, knowing so many people here. It’s awesome to be here.”
The United Hockey camp also gives Cozens the chance to get to know one of the coaches on the Canadian roster.
“He’s the assistant coach of that team,” said Cozens of Dyck. “So to be with him now and get to know him a bit before all the camp stuff goes on is definitely good for our relationship. It’s good to be out here and knowing what he’s all about.”
The virtual camp is on the immediate radar, but Buffalo also beckons.
“I think I’m going to head down to Buffalo pretty soon and skate and train there,” said Cozens, who was selected seventh overall by the Sabres in the 2019 NHL draft. “I spent the majority of my summer last year there as well. It’ll be good to get back down there.”
My goal is to be part of that team next year. I want to play in the NHL, so I’m doing whatever I can to be there.”
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