Yukon's Dylan Cozens comes home a champion, reflects on 'awesome' world juniors

In the past six months Yukon's Dylan Cozens has gone from a highly-touted hockey recruit, to a first-round NHL draft pick, and now, he's an international champion. 

The 18-year-old served as a leader on the Team Canada squad that recently won gold at the under-20 world junior hockey championship in the Czech Republic.  

Cozens scored twice and had seven assists in the tournament, with one of those goals coming during the 4-3 gold medal game against Russia.

"It's been crazy," he said. "It's obviously been a lot, quick turnaround, it's been a little bit of a whirlwind." 

Though Cozens is one of the most promising stars in junior hockey, this tournament was his biggest stage yet, representing Team Canada against the best young players in the world. 

Like at any international hockey tournament, the expectations were high for Canada. As always, the team was loaded with future NHL talent, including Alexis Lafreniere, widely regarded as the best young player ahead of the 2020 NHL draft. 

Petr David Josek/Associated Press

"The whole country is watching, you're not playing just for your club team, you're playing for the whole country," Cozens said. "It was an awesome experience."  

Coming into the tournament, players had to take on new roles and assignments that they are not used to in order to give the team the best chance of winning. Cozens slotted in as a centre on the power play, a role he doesn't normally take on with the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes. 

"It's a big adjustment for sure," Cozens said. "Everyone's used to being the star player on their team and there's guys that do have to accept different roles.

"If you're playing five minutes a night or 20 minutes, you don't care. All you want to do is win." 

The Canadians stumbled early on after a disappointing 6-0 loss to Russia early in the preliminary round. In that game, Lafreniere also suffered a knee injury, which kept him out of the lineup until the quarter-finals. 

"There was so much adversity we battled through," Cozens said. "That 6-0 loss was good for us.… It taught us how we needed to play." 

 

Off the ice, the trip was all-business, Cozens said, though the team did get some time to explore and hang out like regular teens do on a trip to Europe. 

Now back in Whitehorse, Cozens is taking a few days off to decompress with his family before heading back to his club team. 

His plans for his week off? 

"I'm going fishing. It's going to be cold," he said. "But I've got to get in fishing while I'm here."