Dylan Cozens put on quite the display, showing off his many talents against Toronto… except on the scoreboard. He had opportunities and created solid chances for himself and teammates but unfortunately had nothing to show for it on the scoresheet.
A title of a book I read recently comes to mind when I see undeniable examples of Cozens doing well against grown men who are at this level. The book? Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
Cozens has been the best Sabre on the ice often throughout preseason…evidence that he is owed a verdict. His good play may force the Sabres management to make a decision that was really not on the table in early summer.
If Cozens continues to impress he will force the hand of management to start the season giving him the always mentioned trial-run. If he surprises everyone in a Tyler Myers fashion, they could choose to keep him all year. If he sits or is struggling, sending him back to juniors where he can log serious ice-time and play in all situations is better for pure experience. They stress in football how important “REPS” are for the inexperienced youngsters. Ice time is essential for rookies.
If the situation is that he does not struggle or look out of place, but does not show up on the scoreboard, I would send him back. It benefits the team because the first year of his pro contract does not get wasted if he ends up staying and eventually not playing. If he is not contributing that much, it benefits his development to send him back to juniors.
I am glad at times I never really have to make these kinds of decisions. My opinion currently hurts absolutely no one. Hard to believe I suggest that as you probably were just lighting me up in the comforts of your home for my statements. To be a fly on your wall has the potential of resulting in me sobbing uncontrollably with very hurt feelings.
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At this point from what I have seen, heard and read, he has been a much better fit than Casey Mittelstadt. That kid [Mittelstadt] was rushed along. He got value experience but based on his lack of progression, I was anticipating him showing up this year and the light bulb going off. That would be when his pure talent goes on display.
Ideally, Rochester would have been a better place for him last season with some earned callups. For the Americans, he could have been the main guy playing in all situations against the other teams top talent. In Buffalo, if you do not produce, but remain in town, you play with fourth-line talent in less-than-ideal situations.
Mittelstadt has not grabbed attention like Tage Thompson who showed up bigger and stronger. His play really has been an obvious upgrade over last season. I am not close to giving up on Mittelstadt. If the team was not so bad, lacking depth everywhere in recent years, he would not have been the talk of the town two seasons ago before he ever played a game for Buffalo or Rochester. Being so bad and having so many glaring holes, the Sabres were ready to anoint anyone worthy of being some sort of saving grace a postilion on the roster.
Considering that most had Cozens pencilled in as a certain-return-to-juniors candidate after he was drafted, the fact that he returned and cracked the lineup at the prospect event and is playing at all so soon in pre-season, speaks volumes of where he is with his maturity, skating and strength.
Forwards who are young and are not winning games for you at the face-off circle, killing penalties or demanding special attention from the opponent need to do more than just look somewhat comfortable. They need to be an impact on the scoreboard.
With that said, if he stays and can contribute as Tyler Myers did early and often, bring him on. If he is any sort of liability demanding press box evenings in heavy doses, let him develop more in the juniors. No matter what happens, this is a great sign for the first round kid. It is a great problem or decision to have on managements plate.